What Should You Know After Hitting the Gym after a Long Pause
It has happened to all of us. One month you’re hitting the gym close to 7 days a week and then suddenly life gets in the way and you hardly get enough exercise to get your heart pumping. So, after some time you decide to get back in the gym, probably because summer is coming or already here and you don’t want to embarrass yourself on the beach, only to find out that things are not like they used to be.
Do you find that you tire out more easily or you can no longer lift as much? This happens to everybody, especially to seasoned athletes and fighters, who don’t get in as much physical work during off-season as they would during fight or game season. It doesn’t mean they’re lazy or slacking off, it just means that most of the training that is done during season is so hard that it’s hardly sustainable (or safe for that matter).
So now that you’ve decided to get back on the horse, here is a heads up on some of the things you can expect to happen.
How long before your performance deteriorates significantly?
Of course, a pause of a couple of days to a week will not make much of a difference. In fact taking breaks between high intensity workouts is highly recommended, especially for strength training. Building muscle requires healing time, and strength training every day of every week is counterproductive and could produce a lot of injuries.
Performance deterioration depends on how fit you are. Generally, the more fit the person, the longer it will take for their performance to drop.
In general, fitness performance starts dropping at the second week mark. Especially if you’re recovering from an injury, sickness, or just haven’t been doing much of anything except sitting on the sofa.
It may take a total of two months to completely lose all of your fitness gains but a hiatus of two weeks can considerably reduce cardiovascular fitness, lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity.
Strength vs. Endurance: Which is the first to go?
There are two types of muscle fibers in the body: Type 1 (slow-twitch) fibers and Type 2 (fast-twitch) fibers.
- Type 1 fibers are used on a daily basis through walking, taking the stairs, and other day to day activities.
- Type 2 fibers are those that are used for high endurance and high impact training and will require high levels of activity to be activated.
Just as long as you’re moving somewhere, you are already using your Type 1 muscle fibers, but Type 2 fibers take so much more activity to use. This is probably why fast-twitch muscle fibers tend to atrophy before Type 1 muscle fibers do. As a consequence, you’re strength is more likely to decline before your endurance or cardiovascular strength does during a long pause.
Getting your groove back on after a hiatus: The Do’s & Don’ts
Picking up momentum after months of inactivity can be difficult. Just the mental battle alone of deciding to go to the gym or skip it today can be exhausting. So how exactly do you get your groove back on after a long hiatus?
- Take it easy.
- Start with lighter weights.
- Focus on well-being, gains can come later.
- Push yourself too hard.
- Think you can run or lift like you could a year or more ago.
- Be a show-off.
Once you’ve pumped yourself enough to get back on the treadmill or the weights room it can be tempting to go at it like your last gym session was just two days (not two months) ago.
However, experts will urge you to take it slow. You may have a different memory of exactly how strong you were or how high you could get your heart rate to go, but your current body won’t be able to measure up to what your brain expects it to do. This could lead to nausea, injury, and most of all bruised egos.
The best way to go about picking up momentum is to do the bare minimum that still creates results. You don’t have to go too hard on your first day back at the gym, you’ll get there eventually, and remember not to stress your body too much or else you might injure yourself and disrupt your progress at the very beginning.