It’s something that we all want to avoid thinking about and indeed talking about, but it’s something that we knows happens… detraining.
Detraining is the effect of ceasing our cardiovascular or strength training and therefore our body starts to experience reduced capacity to do the particular task that hasn’t been trained.
As most of us know already. Detraining is more significant in the cardiovascular system in comparison to strength training. In other words if we run, swim or cycle and want to maintain that fitness then we need to continue to train otherwise we start to lose fitness. The strength that we build from strength training does tend to stick around a little longer. However, a word of caution on that. Our mobility, flexibility and other such measures does not. So while we can maintain strength for a couple of weeks without doing anything the other related measures such as mobility and flexibility tend to go backwards.
So what is the effect of not training on our running, swimming or cycling fitness?
Let’s use a an example of a runner. If we’re a runner and we stop running then our ability to continue to run is reduced depending on how long we stop training for.
Unfortunately the detraining effect starts to commence around a week after our last run. Therefore as soon as we get beyond that first week of not running then we start to lose our running fitness. Unfortunately it’s a pretty quick decline as well.
You can start to see significant declines in your performance after just two weeks of not running. If you’re a well trained athlete then within three months you can expect to lose half of your aerobic gains. As a general rule the length of time you take off it will take you at least that amount of time to get back to where you were at.
However the detraining effect can impact you very quickly. In particularly we see this a lot with junior athletes. If they train hard through the term and then take the 2,3 or 6 weeks off over the holidays, sometimes that whole term’s work can be undone.
Unfortunately sometimes like with serious illnesses there is little you can do to prevent overtraining. However in a majority of cases of detraining you can do something. Whether it’s going for a run, cycle or swim 1 or 2 times a week during your bad patch of training then it’s going to significantly slow the detraining effect. If you have shin splints from running and you can’t run then you need to change things up and either swim or cycle to prevent your fitness from going backwards.
It’s ok to go through a period of training less. However, it’s much better for you to schedule in some form of exercise, even if it seems to be insignificant to prevent detraining.