It happens to the best of us. Life gets in the way and we skip the gym for a few days... or a week. Blame your job, your kids' insanely busy schedules, or any of these classic excuses, but it's going to happen. And that's okay! Your body needs time to rest and recuperate after a particularly intense workout. But going more than a week without your usual fitness routine can throw your fitness level into rewind. Read on from The Daily Beast to see what happens when you stop working out.
How Fast Will You Fall Out of Shape?
You worked hard to get fit, whether by logging regular runs, or striving for new personal bests in your bench press. When your workouts fall by the wayside, how fast you fall out of shape depends on more than just how much time you spent away from the gym. Your overall fitness and the type of workout you’re missing will also impact your losses, says James Ting, M.D., a board-certified sports medicine physician with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA.
As a general rule, the fitter you are, the longer it will take your muscles turn to flub, he says. Your physique doesn’t like change; it’s constantly trying to achieve homeostasis. So the longer you have been exercising (and the fitter you are), the more time it will take for your body to say, “Well, I guess we don’t need to build muscle any more.”
>> Read more: Top 10 Excuses for Skipping The Gym
If it’s only been a week since you broke a sweat, don’t stress. Whatever your workout history, it’ll take more than seven days for your body to soften. But two weeks? You might not get away with that as easily. One Journal of Applied Physiology study suggests that easing up on your workouts for just 14 days can significantly reduce your cardiovascular fitness, lean muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity. Meanwhile, it can take two months or longer to see complete losses of your fitness gains, according to Ting.
Endurance vs. Strength: Which Will You Lose?
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.
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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 press will 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.
Curious for more? Click here to read the original article from The Daily Beast.