6 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Don’t Work Out For 2 Weeks
Now the remnants of an everlasting winter are finally starting to melt away, so are our desires to work out.
Happy hours and outdoor brunches are way more appealing than an hour spent inside sweaty, overcrowded spinning studios with every other woman desperately trying to prepare for swimsuit season.
Unfortunately, as dedicated as we are to staying fit, two brunch-filled, cocktail-full weeks have gone by and the gym has seen a lot less of us.
And even though two weeks gym-free doesn’t seem like a long break, the physical effects on our bodies can make it feel this way.
We spoke to the top fitness experts who see gym-goers struggle to get back into the swing of things all the time.
Stephanie Dietz, a studio director and lead “cycologist” at Cyc Fitness, and Sam Karl, an instructor at Barry's Bootcamp, both know a thing or two about what it takes to keep your entire body in shape.
It turns out, two weeks may not seem like a long time to go without exercising regularly, but it certainly makes a difference, physically, mentally and emotionally.
If ever you needed motivation to hit the gym and stay committed to your schedule, we have it right here.
Forget two weeks — your body is already changing after three days.
(Yep, three days without a kettlebell and it shows.)
It makes sense our jeans are a little harder to slip on after a weekend of binge-drinking and canceled fitness classes.
According to Dietz, muscle mass will start to decrease as “fibers lose their fat-burning capabilities,” and in turn, you'll lose strength.
You can’t see the process happening, but when you forgo the gym for your bed, the “slow and fast-twitch endurance muscle fibers” (necessary for strenuous and efficient exercise) become more “easily fatigued muscle fiber types.”
As intense as this sounds, don’t freak out! If you miss your morning run all week, you won’t immediately lose the defined legs you’re so proud of.
Dietz says the muscles we use every day, like our hamstrings, lose tone at a slower pace than another small, less-used muscle group, like your ab muscles.
And if nothing else, remember regular exercise is vital for living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to hit the gym every day (or forgo those midnight sweets you love so much), but the benefits of regularly-scheduled exercise — and indulging in moderation — shouldn’t be overlooked.
You’ll need to work extra hard to gain what you’re losing.
If nothing else, this should convince you to make it to your 7 am boxing class downtown.
Dietz told us fitness level and muscle strength take “double the amount of time you took off” in order to return to what they once were.
Two weeks went by and you didn’t sweat once? Looks like you’ll have to eat, breathe and sleep exercise for an entire month to get your endurance back.
Then again, Sam Karl believes a break isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you’re not too indulgent, saying,
If you take two weeks off and keep your protein intake high, you could come back even stronger.
Ever wondered why you can’t stop thinking about mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes and creamy pasta platters?
You're more likely to say “f*ck it” and pick up a burger at McDonald's when you’ve skipped the gym.
These cravings for “comfort foods” — usually high in fats and carbohydrates — are a result of a lack of positive influence on “mood, energy and stamina” you get from exercise, reports Dietz.
When you didn’t just kill yourself for 45 minutes on a bike, you’re more likely to “seek convenient, fast and less healthy food options.”
If you’re on a two-week gym vacation, Karl says sticking to the same nutrition routine will actually “help you maintain the muscle it took you so long to build.”
So do your best to steer clear of the routine-ruining eats (like fatty burgers and dollar slices), and stay married, as best you can, to your weekly meal planning.
On the other hand, Karl reminds us of the dangers of keeping the diet you’re on while working out during the time you aren’t at the gym. (There’s always a catch, guys!)
Your metabolism increases when you’re regularly exercising, and since you’re burning more calories, you end up consuming more in order to maintain enough energy.
If you eat your same calorie-filled meals when you’re out of the gym for two weeks, your body won’t be burning the extra calories and you could potentially put on weight.
Everything in “moderation,” right?
You’re stressing yourself out.
Both Dietz and Karl wholeheartedly agree on this one. Exercise releases endorphins. (And endorphins make you happy; and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.)
Even if it’s just been two weeks since you pumped some iron, the lack of “natural release of endorphins” you’re used to could potentially lead to emotional stress, says Dietz.
On top of a depletion of endorphins and serotonin to help to improve your mood, tension in your body can build up during a gym hiatus.
When you’re working over a computer all day, every day, the muscles in your body (especially your shoulders) are likely to experience negative effects.
When you work out, Karl says you “release [the] muscle tension… that could be causing stress or anxiety.”
Forget sleeping like a baby.
Worried about how you’re going to pay off your credit card and pay next month’s rent? If you didn’t release that stress during a workout, you’re going to lie awake at night, irritable, cooking up the worst possible scenarios.
When you haven’t worked out for a short period of time, Karl points to the “extra nervous energy” as a key factor in making sleep more difficult.
It’s OK to take it slow.
Remember, all is not lost after a hibernation period. It might take a while, but you can regain your strength and muscles.
Both fitness experts agree there are several factors to make the transition back into regular exercise a bit easier.
Dietz says group fitness classes and an overall positive, health-conscious community can help you get back on track.
Karl suggests “basic body weight exercises,” like squats, pushups and lunges without weights, are helpful to get back in the game.
Just “start slow and start small,” and you’ll begin to see the results you were used to appreciating before you took your mini gym vacation.