What Happens When We Get Out Of Shape?

If we quit working out for 2-3 months, we can lose at least half our aerobic fitness! Our lungs lose elasticity, blood vessels shrink, blood volume decreases, we use oxygen less efficiently and our heart pumps less blood per beat.

Even more frustrating is that our muscles can begin to significantly lose strength after just 72 hours of no exercise… AARGH negative gains!

While the thought of getting back into exercise can feel overwhelming and stressful, the following 3 big tips are must read essentials for a gradual, safe return to exercise.

Tip 1 – Turn the intensity down by 20%

Cardio fitness starts to diminish within 3 days of inactivity, but it’s also the fastest fitness parameter to regain once training again. After a break of a week or longer, reduce your previous workout intensity by at least 20%.

Break up your typical routine and give yourself some rest during your workout that you may not have needed when you were exercising regularly. For example, on the treadmill or X Trainer, try doing 10 to 15 minutes of work, grab some water and then add on another 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t jump straight back into doing 30 minutes straight at your typical pace! Or try breaking up your sessions in to smaller increments e.g. brisk walking for 15 mins in the morning and again at night instead of your usual 30 min walk/jog.

Lady on treadmill

Image credit: Fox News

With a moderate cardio workout three times a week, allow at least 1 day between each session

If you play a team sport or attend a fitness class where there isn’t an opportunity to take rest breaks, try building your fitness level back up again doing a mini pre-season, eg 3-4 weeks before returning to your team or class.

Strength gains stick around a little longer than cardio fitness does, with muscle loss occurring within 3 to 4 weeks of inactivity. You can expect weaker bones, ligaments, and tendons, which is when your risk of injury especially increases – reduce your load, reps, and sets by 20% and increase your rest periods and then pay attention to how you feel. The best way to monitor if your workout is safe is to be mindful of the quality of your reps. Stop when you become weak, your repetitions become slow, or your form begins to break.

With resistance training aim for twice a week, allowing 2 days for a muscle group to recover!

Tip 2 – Be choosy about what moves you do

Build your base! Use total-body exercises (rather than ones that focus on one muscle at a time) that move multiple joints at once – think squats and push-ups over biceps curls and calf raises. The focus needs to be on form, not on how heavy you are lifting. Also avoid workout routines that have a lot of jumping, plyometrics, twisting, and fast movements until you’re up to speed with your strength and cardio. High impact (without a solid training base) = injury waiting to happen!

Back squat

Image credit: Men’s Fitness

Have a realistic time frame in mind. For the average person who works out three to four times per week, it should take about 4 to 8 weeks to return to full strength. Remember that exercise is physical stress and too much too quickly can cause injury. Even if you don’t get injured, going flat out can lead to serious muscle soreness and uncomfortable recovery periods between workouts.

Tip 3 – Don’t focus on how fit you used to be

Stop living in the past! Getting back into shape can be discouraging, especially if you clearly remember how fit you used to be – so forget past glories and focus on the future! We recommend tracking your performance measurements e.g. kgs lifted or distance run, by using an exercise diary, fitness watch or fitness app like My Fitness Pal. You can have fun tracking not only your performance, but monitoring your dietary intake too. Reward yourself for getting back into it, and meeting your short-term goals with some new sports gear.

Lap runner checking watch

Image credit: PC Mag

Take Home Message

Use the first 2-4 weeks to ease your body back into shape. Then begin increasing intensity and by the 6-week mark, you will be feeling fit – instead of nursing sore or injured muscles and joints!

So if you require treatment to manage those aches and pains when getting back into exercise, advice on recovery and stretching, or simply just a tune up, Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates have you covered! It will be business as usual at Revive this January, so give us a call on 03 9391 2600 or book online for all you Physiotherapy and Pilates needs.

Whatever your life’s goals, we will be there to assist you again in 2018!