We’ve all heard several myths about working out and then stopping. One of the biggest Whoppers I heard actually came from a client. Her husband told her, “I don’t want to workout because then when I stop all my muscle will turn to fat.” Evidently, he had once been a strapping buff stud who later turned into a couch potato. This made me chuckle as I explained that “it’s not that the muscle turned to fat it’s that his eating habits didn’t change with his decreased calorie expenditure.” Therefore, all of the calories he was eating before were either used to fuel his activity or used to build more muscle. So what does happen when you stop working out? Is it all a lost cause to start in the first place?
How does working out affect your body, strength, and muscle?
When you begin to lift weights, you see quick gains in strength.
“In a study of beginners who exercised for two months, their strength increased by 46 percent, and when they stopped training for two months, they lost 23 percent—half the gains they’d made,” says exercise scientist Wayne Westcott, Ph.D.
The fitter you are to begin with, the slower the loss when you stop. For instance, a person who trains for triathlons will only lose about 10% due to their consistent and strenuous workout routines.
When Will I Get My Muscle Back After Being Away From the Gym
Dr. Edward Coyle from the University of Texas, a leading researcher in the area of detraining, has found that muscular strength will return to pre-exercise levels after only four to 12 weeks of detraining. Muscle size is also reduced. This is why many people notice that their bodies are “sagging” after a few weeks of not exercising (source).
How Should I Workout Out When I Return to the Gym
If you’ve fallen off the wagon for a couple months it’s recommend that you don’t go full force with the same weight you left off with. I see this time and time again at the gym. My male clients seem to be worse because they don’t tend to think it through. They go back to the gym wanting to get back in shape QUICK. They stack their usual weight back on the machines, then end up with an injury. A torn rotator cuff, a strained peck muscle and so on. If you’ve been gone for a while then start at no more then 75% of the weight that you left off with. Also, make sure you are warmed up completely.
Fitness Tip: I always recommend doing a “pre weight” warm up if possible. Use a light version of the weight you intend to do. Perform one set of the exercise at that light weight before you actually start your real sets.
I trained for the “From Couch to 10k” and now I’m back on the couch
Cardio is a bit different then strength training. Sure, you will lose some endurance but for the most part you will be able to see less of a loss. If you were training for an event, you probably won’t have the “edge” you had when you were training frequently, but you will still have very good cardio endurance. It won’t take long to get back up to par. Just make sure you give yourself time to build it back up so you don’t over strain muscles and tendons along the way.
I was injured for a long while and I want to return to the gym
Being injured takes a tole on your mind and your body. If you’ve been out for 6 months then you lost muscle and you most likely gained fat (unless you watched your food intake very closely).
“Once you’re cleared to exercise, you need to return very slowly, very light,” says Westcott. “Half or less of what you once lifted may be too much; go way down and find a resistance you can do with good form and without pain for 10 to 15 reps (source).”
Ultimately, being away from the gym for 2 months is a tad extreme. Most people are able to bounce back into the gym after a couple weeks. However, if you are away for a long period of time, give yourself permission to ease back into it so you can avoid injuries and extreme soreness. Share this useful information on what happens when you stop workout out with all your fellow “Fitness freaks,” via our share links above.