It’s February, which means many people who set goals of physical fitness for the new year have fallen off their horse and are contemplating whether or not to get back on it. Project Bold Life publisher Ed Kopko has written extensively about the goal-setting process and how it relates to failed New Year’s resolutions–you can read about the former here and the latter here on his personal blog.
But this particular article isn’t going the goal-setting aspect of getting back on track for your fitness goals. Instead, it’s going to explore the mental and physical aspects of it all. Because the more you know about the issue, the more prepared you are for success!
Being Fit with A Purpose
One of the most common fitness mistakes is the idea of being fit. Many often think that becoming fit is equal to losing weight. Due to this misconception, lots of people focus on losing fat and muscle to reach their fitness goals.
While the fitness journey requires slimming down, being fit doesn’t mean weight loss. In simplest terms, staying in shape means living your lifestyle without problems or limitations. Healthy people can do their everyday activities in active and painless ways. In addition, the idea of being fit is different for everyone because it depends on the person’s daily demands. For example, while not everyone needs strength training or triathlon exercises, some people need yoga to keep their bodies strong and flexible.
“The relationship between lifestyle and health should be highly considered. Lifestyle has a significant influence on the physical and mental health of human beings. Continuous exercise along with a healthy diet increases health. Some studies stress the relation of an active lifestyle with happiness.” – Dariush Farhud, Professor of Medical and Clinical Genetics, Tehran University of Medical Sciences
Exercising Again After A Break: Your Body During Detraining
Doing a consistent set of exercises for a long time can change your body composition. When you discontinue these activities for a while, you’ll find your body with less muscle fullness and a softer appearance. The rate of how fast your body will adjust to the loss of activity depends on your genetics and lifestyle.
Once you stopped training but kept your diet similar, the differences would appear slower and, in some cases, subtle. However, getting rid of exercise and your eating regimen can quicken the process and show apparent changes as early as two weeks.
Detraining or reversibility occurs after three to five days of inactivity and can already make a few changes in your body. The process slowly starts with less muscle definition due to glycogen depletion. After that, you will experience muscle atrophy which sets in at a steady rate the longer you detrain.
Muscle atrophy influences how much fat you gain during this process. When your body stops feeling consistent overloading from the exercises, the muscle fibers shrink. This happens because protein synthesis slows down to adapt to the minimal stress your body is experiencing.
There are different reasons why people undergo prolonged detraining. They can range from accidents and injuries to enforced quarantine, like during the pandemic. The longer you reverse, the more challenging your experience can be when you start exercising again after a break. While jumping back into a fitness journey doesn’t come with severe issues, some studies show that it has a negative effect on your performance.
“Training cessation has been shown to negatively affect physical human performance. Moreover, exceptional situations such as in the case of the COVID-19 enforced quarantine might lead to inadequate rehabilitation and reconditioning programs, which in turn might be translated in a delayed and/or unsafe return to sport.” -Michele Girardi, Post Doctoral Researcher, Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation
Regaining Lost Fitness
Getting back in shape and reaching your fitness goals is always possible, even with prolonged detraining. But to succeed, you must have an attainable goal and follow a clear, definite plan. There is no exact timeframe to become fit, although having one for each milestone is helpful. Like other life objectives, you have to align your health aspirations with your lifestyle, genetics, and limits.
That said, rebuilding your fitness levels after weeks or months of inactivity is a step-by-step process. In strength and muscle training, your previous efforts are not all lost. While you lack significant power and size, your body can help you rebuild them easier with muscle memory. Engaging in your previous fitness workouts is okay, but you may need to adjust the sets, exercises, and expectations.
When you start working out, you create new neural pathways in your Central Nervous System. Once you start exercising again, these paths awaken and help your muscles to develop back. Mobility and flexibility work the same way, and it’s easier to regain if you have worked on them before.
Cardiovascular training is different because the system doesn’t grow and repair similarly to a bicep. While it doesn’t experience muscle memory, the heart is responsive to progressive overload. Although the concept doesn’t work on the system itself, the muscles supporting them, like your abdominals and diaphragm muscles, do. It may take a while, but engaging in intensive cardio exercises at an earlier pace is faster.
“The human skeletal muscle possesses an epigenetic memory of earlier acute and chronic anabolic stimuli when encountering later muscle hypertrophy.” – Robert Seaborne, Research Fellow, University of Copenhagen
Get Your Fitness Back on Track
Reaching your life aspirations is not a quick and easy stroll. While having a well-thought plan is critical, some experiences and challenges can knock you out of your path. Your fitness journey is no exception to that. Taking a break from achieving your dream body can take a toll on your previous progress. Although it’s not too late to get in shape, it will take time and adjustments. When you keep your plan measurable, realistic, and attainable, you can have a healthy and aesthetically appealing body even after long reversibility.
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