What happens after an extended layoff - an observation

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina our clients began trickling back into town, and there was a return to normalcy. They began scheduling appointments again. Most had not exercised in anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.

I expected them to be weaker. I decided to conduct an experiment. I put them through their previous workout, and I did not lighten the weights. I did not offer them any added encouragement, I did not give them a target to reach, and I told them to stop at whatever point they wanted to.  It was a very interesting result.

Most all of the clients got all of their reps. Some were off a repetition, but that's about it. We were doing slow reps, so one repetition can take about 20 seconds. So in total they were off at most 20 seconds on a 90 to 120 second exercise. Within a workout or two they were totally back up to speed.

These observations comport with a study that showed a similar result. Elite bicyclists were detrained (they stopped riding their bikes) for nine weeks. Their blood was drawn each week. Their aerobic enzyme level diminished each and every week. There anaerobic enzyme level did not diminish. The body still stood ready to do the demanding anaerobic work. This is the same result I saw in my clients.  It is also the same result you will get when comparing sprinters and long distance runners.  If a sprinter and a long distance runner have an extended layoff it will take the sprinter far less time to get back up top speed compared to the long-distance runner.

With aerobic conditioning there is primarily a biochemical change – the body up-regulates its ability to burn sugar over an extended time.  With anaerobic conditioning there is a biochemical change and there's restructuring – the muscles become stronger. Adding muscle is metabolically expensive, and the body does not undo those gains readily.

Taking off a week from strength training now and then can be a good thing.  You’ll come back refreshed mentally and physically and you will not take any steps backward.  It is hard to get a handle on recovery and how often to train.  At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers wecan help you with that.