If you’re into exercise, chances are you’re familiar with rest days and rest weeks. They are essential to help muscles recover, replenish energy reserves and give the nervous system a break from the stress that comes with training. But more than a week and you’ll probably start worrying about losing those hard-earned gains, right?
Well, don’t worry: studies estimate that strength is easily maintained for up to four weeks of inactivity, with one proving that training in six-week cycles followed by a three-week break is just as effective for muscle growth (aka as hypertrophy) as well as five and a half months of continuous grafting. Athlete Keltie OConnor experienced this for herself.
After 10 days traveling back and forth to have her wisdom teeth removed, she went from a summer of intense challenges, including training as an Olympic swimmer, running every day and training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, to 18 days of no training.
As an athlete, fitness is part of my identity. As someone with so much energy, this is also extremely important for my mental health. But what happens when all that is taken away? she says.
This marked the first time OConnor had taken an extended break from exercise, so naturally, she was apprehensive to see what would happen. In 30 days I did five workouts and 18 days without any exercise, she explains. I usually do three or four workouts in two days. Prior to this break, I had done four months of intense resistance training and gymnastics, so it was a big change.
She documented the period on her YouTube channel, where she explains how she felt and the changes she noticed in her body after doing absolutely nothing for 18 days. Prepare to be blown away – here’s everything she learned.
1.You will not gain weight
At the end of the month, my weight is the same, I just look a little flatter,” says OConnor. Because I normally have a ton of carbs in me, as well as a lot of water and glycogen in my muscles after training them.
She’s referring to the process by which your muscles retain water and glycogen (i.e. energy) to help them recover after an intense workout, with research showing that the more you train, the better able your muscles are to store it. , in order to improve performance.
In fact, studies have found that muscles that have just been used in a workout store up to 135 mmol of glycogen and water per kilogram of body weight, compared to untrained muscles that only store around 80 mmol of glycogen and water per kilogram. of body weight. .
2. You may have a reduced appetite
Diet-wise, I’ve been eating soft foods—endless bowls of yogurt and cans of soup—from having my wisdom teeth knocked out, says OConnor. I’m being very conscious of not losing weight. I really made sure I was eating enough calories because my hunger wasn’t as high as usual either since I wasn’t training. I made it a point to eat at maintenance (i.e. enough calories to maintain my weight, which will be different for everyone based on height, gender, age, and more).
According to science, you probably won’t have as much of an appetite during a break as you do when you’re working out, when your metabolism will be at its highest. One study showed that doing strength training for 11 minutes a day, three times a week, resulted in an average 7.4% increase in resting metabolic rate after half a year, which is equivalent to 125 additional calories burned per day.
3. Your muscles will not lose strength
’18 days after my operation and I’m so excited. I’m craving movement, so I booked a Barrys Bootcamp class, says O’Connor. After this break, I know I will come back stronger. Muscle memory means you’ll quickly get back to normal and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve lost a lot of strength or fitness. This break proved to me that I can afford to take time off and enjoy time with my friends and travel, and then get back to fitness like in the seasons. Up next: the CrossFit season.
The aforementioned studies corroborate OConnor’s findings; that taking time off doesn’t mean you’ll lose strength in your muscles. Even better, scientists at the University of Massachusetts have revealed that the nuclei (our cellular control centers) that we gain during periods of regular exercise stay in place, even when our muscle cells shrink during some off-time. Without getting too technical, these residual micronuclei allow us to grow our muscles bigger and faster when we return to training after a break.
Several OConnors subscribers took to the comments section to share similar experiences. One wrote: I feel that my body performs better if every couple of months I take an extended break from an intensive exercise program, but the difficulty is always getting this habit to re-empower itself on restart day. Having an exciting and close workout helps with this. Glad you’re back!
OConnor replied: Lots of science behind it actually!! Why most professional athletes avoid the gym 1 to 3 months after a season. Also, set aside weeks and even months to do magical things. I love that you found out for yourself that it’s true. The hardest thing is to get that habit back. It’s great to be back!
Another added: This happened to me recently! I’m a girl who works out 6 days a week and had to stop for a month of just light walking and was VERY anxious about not being able to work out.
And what happened to my body? Nothing really. I lost some muscle and felt a lot less inflamed. And my mind? Well, it gave me time to reflect on which move I really enjoy doing versus what’s planned. This video is a great reminder for athletes and very active individuals that it’s okay to take a break from fitness. Thank you for always being authentic on your journey, Keltie.
4. There’s Room for More in Life Beyond Fitness
In closing the video, OConnor adds that taking time has proven that while fitness is a huge part of your life, there’s more to it. When I wasn’t focusing on fitness, I was enjoying life. I love having fitness goals, but I like to travel and I loved spending a lot of quality time with my friends. It’s simply a life I’ve had to have my wisdom teeth pulled out, but now I know I won’t miss out on athletic progress with a little slack.
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Image Source : www.womenshealthmag.com