What Happens If I Stop Working Out?
on December 28, 2018
No matter how big of a workout connoisseur you might be, there will always come a time when you stop working out. It could be work related, a personal issue or you just fall out of rhythm at the gym for one reason or another. One missed workout turns into two, turns into three and before you know it you’ve lost all motivation. It could start from something as simple as going on a vacation and upon your return you just can’t find the drive to get back into the swing of things.
If this happens on occasion then you have nothing to worry about. Rest and recovery are very important, but if you stop working out for weeks at a time then you’re actually doing something detrimental to your body and reversing all of the gains that you worked so hard to achieve.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR ME TO FALL OUT OF SHAPE?
This varies greatly. It depends on how good of shape you are in when you stop. If you have a low body fat percentage and a decent amount of muscle mass, then it’s going to take a while for your body to really start showing the signs. In this case, for a really fit and in shape individual, you might not notice much of a loss or difference in upwards of two months. However, internally is a different story. Your “wind” or cardiovascular health will depreciate relatively quickly, lactic acids and insulin levels will increase, your blood will begin to thicken, only making it that much harder once you start working out again.
If you’re someone who is in average shape with average muscle mass (or bulk muscle mass) with average fat percentages, then you’ll see the noticeable differences within as short as 2 weeks. Within a month you’ll really start to see your body taking shape before your eyes. Especially since not working out generally translates into eating more – you’re going to have a compounded effect, one that see’s your results slipping away and being replaced by fat and muscle loss at a fairly rapid rate. You worked hard to get fit, whether by logging regular runs, or striving for new personal bests in your bench press.
If it’s only been a week or so, then there’s really nothing to worry about. It’s not too late to get back into the gym. You can get a free 14 day trial + personal training consultation for free with ONYX Health Club 24/7. Take advantage of that offer today by clicking here and get back into the gym now!
WILL I LOSE JUST ENDURANCE OR STRENGTH OR BOTH?
Your body will react differently depending on whether you’re skipping endurance exercise versus strength training, says exercise physiologist and trainer Marta Montenegro, M.S., C.S.C.S.
That’s because your muscles contain both type I (slow-twitch) and type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers. Type I fibers contribute to endurance performance. Type II fibers are more powerful, and their “fast-twitch” capabilities help you power through high-intensity exercise or strength training.
During your day-to-day activities (like walking, talking, sitting at a desk, etc.), your type I fibers are contributing to the bulk of your efforts. But you really have to work to get your type II fibers to switch into gear. So, when you take a break from exercise, your type I fibers are likely still being used, helping to prevent them from breaking down. But some of your type II, fast-twitch fibers may be rarely, if ever used, if you aren’t working out, she says.
That may explain why type II fibers tend to atrophy more quickly than type I fibers, she says. In other words, your max bench presswill suffer before your 10K time does when you’re slacking. If you’re taking a break from strength work or high-intensity intervals, you’ll notice a huge difference when you finally do go back to the gym.
Endurance athletes aren’t entirely out of the woods, though. When you perform regular cardio, your type II muscle fibers gradually change from type IIx to type IIa, Montenegro explains. Type IIa fibers are key to endurance performance: They are powerful, but don’t tucker out as quickly as IIx ones, meaning they can help power your long runs. When you take a break from your long runs and rides, this essentially reverses, and your percentage of type IIa fibers decreases, while your IIx fibers increases, she says. So prepare to tire out way faster.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GET BACK INTO WORKING OUT!
Depending on how long you took off — and lazy you were — you might not want to jumpback into your workouts, but rather ease into them. If you’ve taken any more than a couple weeks off, you’ll probably notice some differences. After a month or more, you’ll definitely want to get started with a less-intense version of your regular workout, Ting says.
“The most important thing is to back off a little for the first week,” Schoenfeld says. “Choose a weight where you will be able to stop several reps short of failure on your sets. The following week you should be able to train at your previous level, assuming the reason for stopping wasn’t an illness or injury.” Meanwhile, if you’re getting back into running, start at a pace at which you can run comfortably and are able to speak in short sentences. After a week, try turning up the speed.
It can be frustrating to exercise at anything less than your max effort, sure, but gradual is the way to go to prevent injury. The last thing you want is to walk into the gym after a month off, try to squat your “usual” load, and throw out your back. (Hello, another month off.)
Luckily, when it comes to getting back into your pre-break shape, you do have muscle memory working for you, Schoenfeld says. There are two aspects to muscle memory. One involves your ability to carry out movements in a coordinated fashion. Wonder why your first rep on the bench press looked so sloppy? It’s because your body was learning which muscle fibers it needed to recruit, and which ones it didn’t, to properly perform the exercise.
Then second component of muscle memory involves your cells. “Muscles have satellite cells — basically muscle stem cells — that help to drive protein synthesis. Resistance training increases satellite cells and these changes remain for years,” he explains. “So even if muscle is lost from taking time away for many years, a person can regain the lost muscle much more quickly after an extended layoff.” Score.
Exactly how long it takes will vary from person to person, but by and large, you can expect to be back in fighting shape in a few weeks.