First of all, this is anecdotal evidence from what I have learned about myself and many clients after a vacation (or just taking time off from exercise).
Often time my clients (and myself) are worried about losing strength after 7-10 days of no exercise. You just can’t lose strength that fast. But, the other areas of your fitness that can slip can make it seem like you have lost your “absolute” strength…your ability to lift a “heavy” weight for only a few reps.
**Note: This doesn’t mean that you will never lose strength. Most research points to about a 3 week window of time “off” of resistance training before noticing losses in strength. This means you can go to Cancun and drink on a beach for 3 weeks and return to your normal routine when you get back!
….not quite 🙂
Like I just mentioned above, other areas of your fitness can affect that “strength” even though you may not have lost strength after your 7 day hiatus from lifting. Below is a list of what is “most affected” after a week off of lifting:
- Mobility. You will feel more stiff with less movement and activity. This goes for your joints (knees, hips, ankles etc) and muscles (lower back, hamstrings, quads etc). Why is this? The human body is meant to move. Have you heard the phrase “exercise is medicine?” This couldn’t be more true. When you move, stiffness and soreness will more quickly diminish. Which is why, taking multiple days of “complete rest” in a row is rarely a good thing. Now, this increased stiffness in your body will affect your strength for sure. For example, after travel your lower back, hamstrings and hip flexors are usually very tight. This will affect your range of motion on squats, lunges and deadlifts. When range of motion is affected, so is your strength.
- Endurance, aka “cardio.” Your body is meant to move and your heart is meant to “work.” Going multiple days in a row with no elevated heart rate will affect your hearts ability to handle a workout that needs your heart rate to jump up 80-100 beats above resting rate. I often notice that even doing my warmup after a vacation, I will be out of breath. My clients also notice this 🙂 This doesn’t mean that you have “lost” endurance per say, it just means your heart has to adjust to “working” again, like your joints have to adjust to moving again.
- Work capacity or your ability to finish “higher volume” workouts. I sound a bit like a “bro” here, but higher volume workouts means when you are doing exercises for sets of 8-20 reps. The first few reps of sets won’t be an issue, but finish 5 sets of 10 will MUCH tougher than finishing 3 sets 5. Why is this? Well, remember that food is simply fuel for workouts and physical activity. Usually on vacation people are taking in more calories than normal, but those calories are coming from booze and high fat foods. Not the typical “quality” carbs that will fuel your workouts better. To complete high volume workouts you need to be consuming a decent amount of carbs.
- Motivation. This one could be listed first though. If you are someone who doesn’t inherently enjoy exercise, it can be tough to get back into a normal routine after 7-10 days off. This is why I send travel workouts to clients and HIGHLY suggest that you don’t take a full week off. At least do some light mobility work, go for a walk or do yoga. Anything to keep exercise as a habit and make an easier transition back to a normal routine.
So, what should you do in order to limit how much time it takes to get back to a “normal” routine after a vacation? Got some tips below!
- Exercise on vacation. If you “need” a break from exercise on your vacation you don’t have the right mindset to make it long term yet. Exercise must be a part of your normal daily routine…all the time.
- Modify your workouts though. Mainly the intensity. If you are drinking all day or just eating differently, your workouts probably shouldn’t be as intense on vacation. For example, lift less weight or fewer reps, or shorten the time of your workout.
- Bring resistance bands with you 🙂
- You can do bodyweight circuits, just mobility work or yoga when traveling. It all counts and will make the transition easier when you get back.
- When you are back, take a full week to ease back in. You can go back to the same exercises you were doing but lift less weight, do less sets, less reps and listen to your body. All my clients usually have a “transition” week after returning from a vacation.
- Get back to your normal eating AND water intake. Dehydration plays a bigger role in workout quality then people realize. Pound the water!
And finally, remember that your body will remember what you have been working on in the gym. Taking 7-10 days off does not mean you have to start all over. It just means you have to ease back in. Within a matter of 2-3 weeks at most, you will be back to feeling normal in the gym 🙂