Before you start thinking that you should start hitting hard at the gym and work out everyday, know that "too much of a good thing" isn't that good after all. The most important thing when planning your workout routine is to make sure that it is sustainable and you get to progress.
Things will not happen overnight, it does takes efforts but your body also need to rest for it to recover and function properly. Have you heard about supercompensation? This is an explanation on:
(1) why are you making progress but super slow
(2) why are you making negative progress (losing mass)
(3) why are you hitting a plateau (no progress)
and of course this chart might just explains many other questions in mind regarding your training.
So this is a supercompensation chart. I will explain it graph by graph, top to bottom, but of course you can always do more research to know more about this.
In sports science theory, supercompensation is the post training period during which the trained function/parameter has a higher performance capacity than it did prior to the training period.
In the first graph, you work out 3 times a week, with a day or 2 rest in between. However when you don't hit hard enough to break the muscles tissues and you take too long rest, you only have little gains. Supercompensation positive but it will be very slow. Don't be afraid to increase weights/reps when you need to.
The second graph is what we seek for, a nice Supercompensation positive. For example workout 5 days a week with variations in intensity. Challenge yourself with higher reps/weights. This is where I encourage working out different body parts on different days so they would have sufficient rest. This sufficient rest is where the muscles grow and recover to be stronger (that explains an upward chart).
In Supercompensation negative, you hit too hard and didn't get to recover enough. This happens when you workout the same muscles everyday. Even before the muscles recover and grow, you are adding additional burden. If you get enough nutrients, you might get a slow supercompensation positive (1st graph), else you will break your muscles and kept burning off your muscle mass.
Supercompensation positive acummulated is when you hit an intense routine and let you muscles recover. This usually happens during heavy power lifting. This requires mental and physical strength. This is because you are giving you muscles massive stress and the recovery might be lengthy but you will achieve great strength.
In the last graph, Supercompensation null, you hit plateau. It is almost like the first graph. You train less and have long recovery. This also happens when you keep doing the same routines, same reps, same weight. You muscles has adapt to that similar strength and they are not growing much rapidly. Change up your routines once you find it not challenging anymore.
So it is totally fine if your workout wasn't as intense as plan, or you missed a day or two of your routine. As long as you pick it back up when you have recovered, you will be able to do more and get stronger.
My explaination could be terrible, but you can read these to have a clearer view:
The summary is:
So everytime you train, you will be giving you muscles a stress called stimulus. You need the right reps and weights (training intensity) and your compensation (recovery time) has to be sufficient. This is the only way you could maximize your training to achieve your goal.
It simply isn't just "lift heavier", "run longer" or "workout everyday".
This video is also very helpful!
There is a thing called "muscle memory". According to wikipedia, muscle memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.
Muscle memory has been used to describe the observation that various muscle-related tasks seem to be easier to perform after previous practice, even if the task has not been performed for a while. It is as if the muscles “remember”.
Muscle memory is real. So even if you missed your diet and workout for a month, as long as you get back to you routine, you will be able to gain those muscles back in a shorter time.
Here are 2 great articles I got on "muscle memory":
So please don't have a mindset that you will have kids, get old and it is impossible to get fit. If you start early, it will be easier for your muscles to adapt. However age is just a number so even if you start late, it is still possible!