I ran 6.2 miles this morning after seven days of not working out. I had to ease into my run and it took a few miles to do that. I just returned from a week in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, where I took my two oldest boys to work with the Missionaries of the Poor. Needless to say we didn’t get out for a run (although they did some push ups every night). Whenever I take more than a few days off I am always struck by how quickly my fitness level seems to fade. It’s as if all the work of months takes only a few days to undo. This is actually not the case, however.
It takes more than a week to undo all our hard work, so we shouldnt be afraid to take a break from exercising. In fact many elite athletes take about a week off every 8-12 weeks to give their bodies a break. According to the American Council on Exercise, the degree to which cardiovascular fitness declines during a period of de-training depends upon what kind of shape you were in to begin with. Individuals who are extremely fit, such as highly trained athletes, experience a rapid drop in fitness during the first three weeks of detraining, which then tapers off.
A significant level of fitness – higher than that of an untrained person – is retained for about 12 weeks. Individuals with low-to-moderate fitness levels show little change in cardiovascular fitness within the first few weeks, but their ability rapidly declines in the weeks immediately following. Here are a few things to consider:
Aerobic power can decline about 5-10% in three weeks.
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 lasts longer than aerobic fitness. Muscles retain a memory of exercises for weeks or even months.
While this information is true I’m sure, the thing I feel the most after more than a few days of not working out is the way my muscles feel. It’s almost like they feel a little “soft”. I also feel a lot more soreness after my first weight workout than I do after my first run. With a fall marathon (Marine Corps) on the horizon, I really can’t afford too much “easing” into it…I need to just be off and running. After my six miler this morning, I know it’s not going to feel great for the first few days.
What are some ways you get back into working out after a break?