muscle memory

“If you will faithfully follow the instructions, beginning with the introductory lesson, you will without a doubt acquire correct physical fitness with proper mental control. 

As you progress in your self instruction, you never have anything to “unlearn”.  These exercises will actually become part of your very self, securely stored away forever in your subconscious mind.  You who have learned correctly how to ride a bicycle, how to swim, or how to drive an automobile need never worry with respect to the possibility of your failing to use the right technique in these skills.

So too the the acquirement and practice of the art and science of Contrology will instill confidence in you that will remain forever for future use.  Then it is simply only a question of “re-toning” the muscles that have in the meantime become “soft” as the result of disuse.”   ~ Joseph H. Pilates, Return to Life

I LOVE this passage taken from Joseph Pilates’ book Return to Life!  To me, it really speaks to the value of learning how to move your body properly versus just exercising. I am a firm believer that any movement is good movement if it is safe and you enjoy it. But at the same time, I know that there is immense value in learning how to move your body efficiently and with an awareness of your body. Anyone who has practiced Pilates on a regular basis can tell you that when you learn how to engage your deep abdominals, or stabilize your hips or shoulders it becomes part of you. You are not just thinking of those things in your Pilates practice. You continue to incorporate those ideas into all movement throughout your life. (It is becoming muscle memory.)

Anyone who has practiced Pilates also knows that just because you are not making it to the studio to get your weekly classes in doesn’t mean you “lose” everything you have gained in your Pilates practice. Just like once you’ve learned to ride a bike you never forget how….you never forget how to use the skills you learn in Pilates. You may not be going through an entire workout like you would if you were taking a session or class with an instructor. But you still know how to move properly. And, I’m guessing you’ve incorporated many of your Pilates principles into your daily life. These include, but are not limited to, good posture, balanced movements, using your breath to cue your body to destress and connect, etc. (Muscle memory for the win!)

I love how Joe also talks about how when you do come back to your Pilates practice. He says it’s not a matter of relearning technique but “re-toning” the muscles that in the meantime become “soft” as the result of disuse. My translation of this is: It all comes back to you…just like riding a bike. If you pay attention to your working level, and use your Pilates principles, you will safely strengthen your muscles and get your body back in shape in no time!

So if you’ve taken a break from your Pilates practice…don’t be discouraged. It happens to everyone. When you are ready to come back to it you can rest assured that muscle memory will kick in, and your body will remember how to move. You’ll be back to a regular Pilates practice in no time!