We’ve all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” and as cliché as it may be, it is true.
It may also be cliché to talk about consistency in our workout schedule when summer rolls around, but I’m going to nonetheless. It’s worth looking at what happens when we put our exercise regime on the backburner, and perhaps scare ourselves a little into maintaining some training time even when the weather gets nice.
It only takes seven to fourteen days of no exercise to see decreases in muscle mass, VO2 max (the maximum ability of cells to take in oxygen), speed, strength, endurance, coordination and recovery time. Your body is amazingly adaptable, and just as it becomes stronger to adapt to increases in the physical demands you ask of it during your training, your body will become weaker when you demand nothing of it.
Rest days and active recovery are necessary, but seasonally stopping training altogether will mean a long climb back to where you were.
As muscle fibers learn they won’t be put under stress, they will store less energy, and begin to atrophy (become smaller).
Muscles don’t actually turn into fat, but they will shrink. But then, of course, fat cells will begin to increase in size, especially if your diet doesn’t change with the decrease in training. Your blood pressure will start to increase, and so will your blood/glucose levels.
In six to eight weeks of no exercise, your body will undergo some major changes. Muscle mass, strength, speed and endurance decreases will continue, along with bone density decreases, flexibility decreases and blood flow decreases. You may find your sleep more restless, and there’s the risk of turning into a “Grumpy Gus,” since you won’t be exercising and triggering happy endorphins that elevate your mood.
The good news: All of these losses can be reversed by resuming your training. But if you take the summer off, when you come back to the gym, it will be like starting at square one.
The even better news: If you maintain even one or two training days per week, and work out more intensely on those days, you can maintain your fitness level with less gym time. And you won’t have to struggle at the end of the summer trying to regain what you lost.
How do we stay consistent in our training when the beach is calling?
1. Choose a time and/or place you can work out year-round that won’t be affected by seasonal changes in your schedule.
2. Find a workout buddy and set up a schedule to help each other stay committed.
3. Pick a training plan or classes you enjoy to help you stick with it. The more you enjoy your training, the more likely you are to keep going.
4. If you are going to shift your focus outdoors for summer, consider reducing your training schedule rather than ditching it altogether. You can maintain your fitness level by working out more intensely in fewer sessions.
5. Reward yourself for going. Even the smallest reward, like a post-workout nap on the beach, an iced Americano or a new book, is a great incentive to stay consistent.
Don’t stop moving. If you’re still moving, they can’t bury you.
As always, do what you can with what you have where you are, and always prioritize the positive.
Body-weight beach workout
Do each exercise 10 times, then run the length of the beach once. Next round do nine reps of each exercise and run the length of the beach; then eight, then seven, all the way down to one. Enjoy!
1. Decline push-ups: Use a sturdy piece of driftwood, bench or any elevated surface.
2. “Box” jumps: Use a sturdy piece of driftwood or a bench, or any elevated surface.
3. Sandy mountain climbers: For resistance, drag your feet forward and back through the sand.
Melissa Sloos is a certified group fitness instructor, spin instructor and studio manager at Coast Fitness.