How Long Does It Take To Get Your Fitness Back?
Now that gyms across the UK are open and classes are back, we're excited to welcome members back in our gyms. With months of either no training or home workouts with limited equipment, you may be curiously wondering how long it takes to get your fitness back?
We asked personal trainer Jack Young to cover what you can expect from starting your fitness again, how to rebuild progress and the time it will take, along with tips to help you get back into your routine again.
What happens when you stop training?
The rate at which your body composition changes when you stop training will largely depend on your genetics and other lifestyle factors. If you stopped training completely but still maintained your efforts on your nutrition, recovery, physical activity and hydration, the rate of change will likely to be slower than if you had not maintained those efforts. The difference noticed can vary from 2-3 weeks with incorrect nutrition to 1-2 months with maintained nutrition.
The process gradually begins with less muscle fullness and an aesthetically 'softer' look. This is due to the glycogen depletion within the muscles. After that, muscle atrophy sets in at a steady rate alongside possible fat gain due to lack of regular exercise. Breaking down the basic science of muscular atrophy itself is simple: without enough consistent overload, use and/or recovery, your muscle fibers will shrink due to the slowing down of protein synthesis and the adaptation to minimal stress.
Your main fitness purpose when unable to perform normal training should be “damage control”, meaning you should look to hold onto the strength, flexibility and muscular size as best you can. This can be reduced by maintaining levels of protein intake (the same grams per day as if you were training) and ensuring your muscles remain limber and lightly active.
How long does it take to get my fitness levels back?
If you were an active gym goer before the pandemic and are looking to get back in the gym, you may be wondering just how long it might take to get back your fitness levels?
How long will it take to rebuild muscle and get my strength back?
Good news! When it comes to strength training and muscle building, you efforts prior are not lost. Whilst you may find some loss in strength or muscle size, you body has what we call “muscle memory”. Just as relearning to ride a bike would be easier than learning from scratch, this concept goes the same for rebuilding muscle and getting your strength. When you workout, you create new neural pathways within your Central Nervous System (CNS), and even after stopping all activity the pathways still remain. This allows muscle and strength to be built back up faster than the first time, as essentially your muscles ‘already know the way to do it’.
How long will it take to get my mobility and flexibility back?
Much like strength and muscle, flexibility and muscle elasticity can be regained faster if you've previously worked on this area, compared with someone with little muscular elasticity who is starting stretching for the first time. Even without training, flexibility and stretching drills at home are not only a good way to stay limber, but also to ensure your muscles are lightly active and receive good blood flow. Which in turn, can make the recovery process faster.
How long will it take to get my cardio fitness back?
When it comes to cardiovascular training, although your cardio system does not technically ‘grow and repair stronger’ in the same way a bicep would, it still is respondent to progressive overload. Whilst your heart will not experience the same muscle memory system as other groups, the muscles supporting cardio will (such as your abdominals, diaphragm muscles etc). In much the same way as returning to the bench press is more efficient when you have done it before, engaging in intensive cardio is also faster to adapt to when you have previously trained that way. But with this said, make sure to build up gradually, to allow your body to adjust to your training before amping up the intensity.
For most people re-entering the gym doors in the last couple of months, they can expect a period of anywhere between 2-12 weeks to regain their fitness back. Of course, this is highly dependent on the individual, what they have done since their training, their type of training and their goals.
How should I train when returning to the gym?
With everyone having different goals and styles, you should resume your training in much the same way as you have done before. Although for the first 1-3 weeks, starting from an RPE level (Rate of Perceived Exhaustion) of 5-7. There is no need to rush to regain your 1 rep max on the bench press in the first session back, as that could lead to at best frustration and at worst injury. Instead, look to train how you enjoy with slightly less resistance than normal and focus on gradually increasing each time as you regain your fitness. Before you know it, your strength and fitness level will return back and you will be well on track to making more improvement!
Heading back to the gym? We have over 280 gyms nationwide. Find your nearest gym. Check out the classes that are on at your local gym and find more tips, such as getting into a gym routine, the returning to the gym after it's been a while, and plenty of gym workout ideas in our Back To The Gym Guide.