Taking A Break From Exercise
Many of us are worried about taking a break from exercise because we fear losing the hard-won fitness we’ve built up.
During the Christmas and New Year period a break from exercise may have been inevitable due to travel, or additional family commitments.
It’s true that exercising consistently is important for building endurance, conditioning your body, and losing, or maintaining weight, but there always comes a time when you must take a break.
A break may be necessary because you’re tired, injured, or extra busy. If you’re ill, go on holiday or a life event will also take you away from your workout routine.
Doing too much exercise, or too much high intensity exercise, can lead to fatigue and poor performance in your workouts.
Taking a break may be just what you need to rest, recover and rejuvenate, but how long before you start to lose your fitness?
- It’s Ok To Take a Break
Taking a few days or a full week off from training won’t necessarily hurt the gains you’ve made. Many serious exercisers and athletes regularly schedule a week off every 8-12 weeks.
Marathon runners will typically peak their training about 2 weeks before the marathon, then start tapering down so that they’re fully rested for the race.
The good news is that it takes a lot more than a week off to undo all your hard work, so don’t be afraid to take a break if you’re feeling tired and sore.
- How Long Does it Take to Lose Fitness
Whether you’re taking a break by choice or because you have to, how long can you take a break before it affects your fitness?
Some basic statistics:
- It takes about 2 months of inactivity to completely lose the gains you’ve made.
- Extremely fit exercisers will experience a rapid drop in fitness during the first three weeks of inactivity before it tapers off.
- Muscular strength and endurance last longer than aerobic fitness. Muscles retain a memory of exercises for weeks or even months.
There’s no hard and fast rule about how many rest days to take or when to take them. The key is to listen to your body for signs of overtraining and to your mind for signs of exhaustion.
It’s also nice to get away from the usual routine when you’re on holiday; to try doing other active things that work your body in a different way. For example, long walks, snorkelling which keep you moving without having to worry about doing long workouts.
- Signs You May Need to Take a Break
Fatigue or physical exhaustion
Soreness that won’t go away
You’re not able to progress in your workouts
You feel unmotivated
An injury or illness
You have a work trip or holiday coming up and you know you won’t have the time for full blown workouts
Taking a few days or a week off may be just what you need to get back to your workouts with more energy and enthusiasm, and you don’t have to be completely inactive – in fact, it could be the perfect time to try activities you usually don’t have time for.
- Getting Back on Track
If you do find you’ve taken a longer break than you really wanted, it’s important to get back into your workouts slowly to avoid injury. It may be frustrating, and you may feel as though you’re back to where you started, but it won’t take very long for your body to return to where it was before your break. Your body remembers how to exercise, it will just need a little time to get used to working out again.
- Tips for Getting Back to Your Workouts
- Start simple – If you had a routine you followed before, try a lighter version, using lighter weights and less intensity.
- Give your body time – It may take up to three weeks to get back to where you were, depending on how much you did before and how much time has passed. Use the first 2 weeks to get a feel for your body and your workouts.
- Take extra rest days – Coming back to exercise means you may feel sore, so plan additional recovery days so that your body can heal and grow stronger.
Gradually increase the intensity weekly until you’re back to your usual routine.