It’s always hard to get back to training after a long break. The body reacts reluctantly, resisting the strain, squirming and resisting, and during the first exercise we try to make up for all the shortcomings at once, which proves to our body that it is a bad idea to finally go back to the gym. Today we are talking about how to slowly wake up the sleep mechanism and continue the lesson properly.
Walter Thompson, an exercise physiologist at the University of Georgia, has studied what happens to the body during a break and what to expect when you decide to exercise again. The good news is that in any situation you can return to the previous level and become stronger, faster and more resilient. The main thing is to do it correctly to avoid injury.
Interruption of training or the use of loads that cannot maintain the achieved level leads to non-compliance – a process that is the opposite of adaptation.
Deadadaptation is the body’s remarkable ability to use resources released in other body systems. In other words, resources are taken from where they are no longer used to places where building materials are needed.
How did the break affect your fitness?
During training, changes occur in many systems of the body. If we decide to stop, our body gradually returns to its almost original state. First of all, the amount of blood decreases, which usually increases if you exercise constantly. But this is far from the only indicator. For example, in runners, after taking a break for only two weeks, VO2 max drops and shortness of breath occurs earlier than usual.
If you take the students of a sports university and prescribe them 9 days of bed rest, VO2 max will drop by 21% and heart rate by 10%. 10 days of standard training is enough for these indicators to return to normal.
VO2 max characterizes the body’s ability to absorb and absorb oxygen. This indicator is fundamental in sports medicine. With its help, the athlete’s abilities and prospects for his progress are evaluated.
Of course, if you are an athlete and have been playing sports for many years, even after a three-month break, your physical condition will still be much better than the average person. But that still doesn’t mean you can reach new heights just by getting off the couch and running a trail.
Your power level won’t drop that fast. After a month, most of your skills will remain. About half will remain within a year. The new capillaries created to supply your muscles with better oxygen will stay with you, the heart will be strong, the lung capacity will be more and it will work more efficiently than a person who does not do sports.
There are no formulas that will allow you to accurately calculate how much you have lost and how long it will take to recover, but there are studies on the basis of which you can at least get an idea of the big picture.
- If your break is for a few weeks, your respiratory and cardiovascular systems will lose a few points, while their strength qualities will remain unchanged
- If the break was a year, but before that you were in good physical shape, then cardio loads will be given to you 15% more difficult, strength characteristics will be reduced by at least half
- If the break was measured in years, you will have to start from scratch. However, you will make faster progress than people who have never exercised
The new training plan will depend on why you stopped exercising and what happens to your body in the meantime.
If you have had to stop because of an injury, you should make sure that you are fully recovered. Therefore, you should definitely see a doctor. A physiotherapist will be able to give you information about the general condition of your muscles, point out imbalances and identify weaknesses.
If the break was taken due to the appearance of a child in the family or a busy work schedule (you gave all the time to a new project), you need to understand how you can find time for proper sleep and nutrition so that there are no psychological and physical problems in the future.
If your break was just a few weeks (rest or vacation), a few light exercises are enough to heal and you will regain your shape.
But what if you haven’t exercised for a year or more? If you go to the gym, Thompson recommends starting with half or one-third of the weight you gained a year ago and trying out your standard pounds a few weeks later. Recovery usually takes 1-2 months.
For endurance sports (running, cycling, triathlon, etc.) the intensity will need to be reduced. In this case, Thompson recommends starting with a long walk, and then switching to intermittent jogging or running at a very low speed. In this case, the distance does not matter.
If after two months you have not returned to your previous form, you need to update your training program or even better, find a good coach that suits you based on your physical condition and abilities.
What should you do if you need to take a break again?
Some things happen in life and we can’t guarantee we’ll never take such a big break again. The main rule is not to completely abandon physical activity. Allow 10-15 minutes of walks or light exercise a day, but these should be in your schedule!
Fortunately, you can now find videos with lots of short workouts, both strength and interval. And if you can arrange for yourself such mini-workouts, it will be much easier for you to return to your previous physical form. Yes, and psychological adjustment will be easier if you quit the sport altogether.
With 25-30% of the previous training, you can maintain your form for two to three months.
On average, the adaptation period after a decrease in physical activity (you left and did not have the opportunity to fully train) is 2 weeks.