In the world of fitness rest and recovery is a necessary part of any workout regimen. However how much rest is too much? How much time does it take to set you back from all of your hard work? When does that time off start to become detraining? To better answer these questions you have to take in consideration which activity and what your fitness goals are. If you are training for an event you may notice a huge difference from taking a few weeks off versus if you need to take a few weeks off to nurse and injury if you work out more on a recreational basis.
Finding a good balance in weight training is important since rest is when the muscles grow. A good rule of thumb is 3 days you can usually feel a set back and two weeks until the body actually starts to lose muscle mass and detraining sets in.
If you are a runner you know from experience that a few weeks away from your run can leave you winded and feeling out of shape. Studies have measured the decrease in VO2 Max to determine that 3 weeks of rest can amount to a 25-30% decrease in cardiovascular fitness. To maintain your cardiovascular fitness levels it is recommended to have at least three workouts per week at 80-90% intensity.
Due to the intensity and the fine tuning speed and power training take, detraining occurs faster. If you are training your fast twitch and power burst muscle fiber even a week off of training will be felt upon your next workout. This type of training generally isn’t year round and is tapered toward a season or event. So a degree of detraining is natural for speed and power athletes.
While detraining may sound detrimental to your fitness some athletes have been known to use detraining to work through training or fitness plateaus. Once you have rested and effectively detrained, some athletes discover that they can reach higher levels of performance after they retrain.
If you have simply fallen off the training wagon starting to getting back up to full speed after detraining can be difficult and cause you anguish, as your body fights to get back to train at your highest level. So remember to start slow until you get back up to full speed.