Fitness: Use It Or Lose It … Fast!

Fitness maintenance to avoid detraining

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

I am sometimes asked the question: How fast do I lose fitness?
The short answer is: Fast! 
The full answer to “how fast” depends on who, what, how … and nice to know: Not all is lost!
Read this and get five tips to maintain fitness. 

How fast you lose fitness, detraining, depends on several factors, especially your training age, for how long and how regurlarly, you have been exercising.

How quickly you get out of shape also also depends on whether you just decrease your training volume and intensity or stop completely.
In the latter scenario most training effects in new exercisers are lost completely within two months (eight weeks):
Beginners and new exercisers with less than six months of regular training lose fitness much faster than conditioned athletes; after 8-10 weeks of quitting exercising almost all fitness gains are lost.

Well-conditioned fit exercisers with several years of training lose some fitness already within a week, however, it takes up to 10-15 weeks before half the conditioning is lost.

So, even if fitness loss is happening fast, not all is lost immediately; up to a week of resting can even be an advantage, it may serve as an extended recovery, but after 1-3 weeks you start losing your fitness level.

Loss of aerobic fitness happens fairly quickly, while loss of muscle strength is a little slower: after a three month break, muscle mass, which is related to strength, is back to the original level.

When you have lost your fitness, it takes time to rebuild it. Returning to your former fitness level happens faster, if you have been exercising for many years, however, it may still require several months to work yourself back into shape.

Luckily it is possible to avoid losing fitness: At times, when you are very busy or lazy, you can maintain your fitness level with as little as 1 workout per week, but at a minimum intensity of at least 70 % of your maximum (VO2max).

Nice advice: Keep in shape – avoid detraining.

At busy times or times of travelling:

  • Train express training, short workouts; 10-20 (30) min. with high intensity.
  • Train interval training, high-intensity work followed by a rest-pause,
    there a many methods, e.g. 8 x 30:60 sec. (high intensity/pause)
  • Train a select few exercises, do complex total-body exercises, e.g. TGU, instead of many exercises for a few muscles,  isolations.
  • Train circuit training. Exercise non-stop; go from one exercise to the other without rest-pauses.
  • Train split training; if you only have 10-15 minutes a day, then ‘split the body’ and train only one or two muscle groups per day.

Note: Always work out at a suitable level; the intensity should be right for your health and fitness level. And always do a warm-up and a cooldown.

If you are injured or ill, you should see you doctor or physiotherapist for a check-up and a special program.
In general: Work ‘around’ your injury, train other muscle groups – e.g. crosstraining – and do some rehabilitation exercises for the injured area.

Fitness training around an injury

Apart from the physical factors, the mental aspect is important.
As soon as you have been exercising for a while, you do have valuable training experience, which means that it will be easier to get back to exercising, if you have been away from it due to lack of motivation or injury.
No worries, just get back in the game.

Enjoy your workout.

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