With the cold months looming over our heads and holiday parties to plan for, many of us start to slip out of our regular routine. An all to common victim of this is our workout regiments. I'm guilty of it as well and used to have the mentality that taking a hiatus was nothing to worry about. That is of course until I tried to go back after the holiday season last year and noticed a severe decline in my performance. So I decided to see what taking a break from the gym does to people and this is what I found.
After 10 days
Your brain might start to change. In recent years, scientists have hypothesized that physical exercise done on a regular basis can be helpful to your mind as well as your body. To be more specific, physical exercise may decrease the occurrence of memory loss caused by age. A study conducted by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, took a group of marathoners and gave them an MRI after the runners took a 10-day training respite.
The results of the MRIs indicated that the an area of the brain known as the hippocampus was receiving less blood flow than it had been prior to them taking a break. The hippocampus is the part of our brain that is connected to memory. It should also be noted that the hippocampus is also associated with emotion, indicating that taking a hiatus may also have an effect on your overall mood. No immediate changes were noted beyond the decrease in blood flow and more long-term studies will need to be conducted in order to substantiate the effects over a period of time.
After 2 weeks
Your endurance will plummet and your vitals may spike
After 14 days we start to see more tangible physiological changes. Two weeks of neglecting the gym will result in a noticeable decrease in stamina. This is because our bodies VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use, takes a significant dive. We typically see an approximate 10% drop after two weeks and about 15% after four weeks. Even if you yourself don't notice the effects immediately, a visit to your doctor would confirm a rise in your blood pressure as well as glucose levels.
After 1 month
Your strength will start slipping. Muscular strength diminishes at a slower rate than muscular endurance, but it does diminish all the same. The human body is exceptionally adaptive to stimuli, especially for younger individuals. Maintaining muscle requires a larger amount of energy in the form of calories. Your brain delegates the dispersal of caloric energy throughout the body and if you aren't using a particular system, your brain stops feeding it. The muscles lose there swell an the muscle fibers lose tensile strength, resulting in decreased output from the effected muscle groups.
After 2 Months
You start to gain weight. Like I said before, our bodies are highly adaptable. In fact, inactive behavior has just as much of an impact as active behavior. Your metabolism dictates how you convert sustenance into energy and after two months of not using up that energy, your body decides to store it. Stored energy takes the form of fat and requires more effort to burn off than it does to keep it off altogether.
One thing to keep in mind is that these changes are more drastic when you go from being active on regular basis to being completely sedentary. To help prevent this decline here are a few tips to help you stay motivated and keep active.
Use the buddy system.
It's dangerous to go alone...lol. It may be from a video game, but that statement rings true for many people in regards to staying fit. Working out on your own can get very boring, especially for those of us who are social by nature. It gives you an extra incentive hearing someone cheer you on as you push through a set of barbell press or sprint out that last stretch of your run. It's also safer to work with a partner when you start trying to exceed your limits. Everybody needs help every now and then.
Do something fun during your routine.
Many people with a fitness goal find the act itself fun. They love seeing how much they can push themselves. For others it's more like a chore. That's why it's important to look at ways to incorporate fun into you workout. For me it's getting to go toe to toe with a heavy bag. I can lose track of time if I'm in a good bag/ sparring session. Most gyms have at least a basketball court. Some have outdoor areas and in my gym there's even a rock wall. You could also try the reward system. Treat yourself for every week that you maintain your gym commitment. This could be just about anything that doesn't counteract all your hard work; whether it's renting or going to the movies, hitting the beach or going to a game. Keep yourself honest on this one otherwise there's no point.
Set realistic goals
This one is for the New Year’s resolution makers that fall off track after a few weeks. The reason you lose so much of that resolve early on is because you don't see the results that you think you should be seeing. Getting your body right after years, months, or even just weeks of neglect takes a dedicated effort. If you just started exercising for the first time since LAST January, don't expect to see the pounds just drop off after a few rounds with the elliptical machine. Starting goal should be to drop a pound a week. It may not seem like much but this is just to get you going. Achieving your fitness goal is one of the most inspiring things you can do when you want to lose weight and get into better shape.
To help you get on track I created a workout planner for those of you who are just starting out and coming back to the gym. The road ahead isn't meant to be easy so please try to avoid gimmick diets and health gadgets. Patience and perseverance are the two greatest tools you can ever have when you want to get serious about your physical health. For more tips and articles on staying happy and healthy, be sure to subscribe to Yagoli.