How Much Fitness Do I Really Lose If I Stop Training?



In my first post I talked about the importance of sticking to a plan. Speaking from experience, both my own and that of my clients, it is safe to say that the first six weeks is the hardest part of any training programme.

The body will be experiencing all sorts of new feelings, aches and pains from the structured and regular exercise the programme provides. Not to mention starting to say no to those cravings we get as well is always a challenge.

However, sometimes certain factors beyond our control prevent us from training, be it illness, injury or a busier than usual work schedule. So, how much fitness do you actually lose if you stop training due to unforeseen circumstances?

It is important to remember that both fitness and fatigue work together. The more fitness you gain, the more fatigue you accumulate and vice versa, so it is a tight line in managing that process. It takes about a week for your body's blood volume to reduce by about 12%.

This will mean your heart has to work slightly harder to maintain a given workload, as well as the metabolic changes and a drop in efficiency of lactate accumulation when working at higher thresholds. By taking one week off your muscles will have recovered and will be stronger, but any more than that and you will have to play catch up on regaining that fitness.

At two to three weeks your VO2 Max (the measure of your aerobic capacity) could reduce by up to 20%, and this will subsequently have had a knock-on effect from a lack of cardiac output, which could reduce the muscle mass in the heart chambers. As a result oxygen uptake into the muscles could then decline by up to eight percent.

By the fourth week you are returning back to your original base fitness. Various muscle alterations lead to fat burning in the muscles becoming less efficient and making it harder to burn when you ride. Your muscles will also begin to deteriorate losing muscle mass.

By the end of six weeks you will have gained body fat and your ability to burn calories and process oxygen through the body will most certainly have reduced. Muscle mass in both the heart and elsewhere will have significantly decreased.

As you can see it can be a harder process to get back on the horse than it is to keep riding. If you do become injured or take time off from training make sure you take the correct steps to get back to fitness. Don't cut corners, as this could only lead to a worse injury than before, and always seek quality advice.

Stay focused, and stay on your bike whenever you can.

The Secret Cyclist

The Secret Cyclist is a British Cycling Level 2 coach who specialises in road and time trial. Based on the south coast he has a facility that incorporates personal training, cycle coaching and bike fitting. His weaknesses are hills and a love of cake. When off the bike he has a love of food and can often be found eating his way around Manchester.

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