Getting back to the gym after taking a small hiatus can feel like lifting weights for the very first time. And if you’ve ever tried to run after taking some time off, you know how painful that can be. The change is real, and pretty discouraging—physically and mentally. But how much is that really throwing you off your fitness goal? And how long is too long before you’ve disrupted all that hard work you put in?
Here’s what happens to your body when you fall off the workout wagon (hey, life happens), and how much progress you really lose.
Skipping workouts for a few days, or even a week, really isn’t going to do much.
In fact, sometimes, your body may need it. “For most people that are exercising regularly and have a moderate to solid conditioning level [you work out four to six times a week], a week off is an opportunity to take a break and refresh the mind and body,” Cris Dobrosielski C.S.C.S., C.P.T., consultant and spokesperson for American Council on Exercise and founder of Monumental Results Inc., tells SELF. And assuming you don’t make it regular habit, you don’t need to stress about falling out of shape.
The biggest risk in taking a week off is really more mental. “For the beginner, the routine of exercise is a huge key, and for this person getting motivated after a week off might be more difficult,” says Steve Ball, Ph.D., state specialist and associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “Some quit and never start again.” Recognize that you’ve had to hit the pause button, and if you need a little extra motivation to pick things back up when your schedule allows, try one of these simple, science-backed kick-starters.
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