We live in the age of extremes. We have to be the fastest, baddest, biggest and the best at everything we do. This is America! When speaking of cars, computers and the speed at which we receive our text messages, our all or nothing attitude is a definite advantage, but it is this mind frame that has lead us to gigantic food portions, exponentially rising obesity related healthcare costs and the first generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We certainly are the biggest and baddest in terms of girth and the quality of our nutrition, that’s for sure.
It works the other way, too. We want instant gratification, instant results and immediate weight loss when adopting a fitness routine. In the age of the Biggest Loser, where contestants work out 8+ hours a day, everyday, and see double digit weight loss, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that more is better. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way.
Regardless of your New Year’s resolution and the good intentions that come along with it, winter weather brings some pretty intense temptations. I highly prefer a comfy couch, warm fire and hot bowl of beef stew over running outside in the frigid, snowy, windy mess of winter. I would like to say that I always resist such temptations but I know I’m not the only one who would be lying if I did. The fact is, everyone deserves a break; a cheat-on-my-diet day or a forget-my-workout day. The question is, how much of a break is acceptable? At what point during your fitness boycott do you start to un-do the benefits of your training? A few recent studies have tried to answer those questions and it seems to depend on your basic fitness level and expected length of hiatus.
Athletes who completely halt their training can expect to see a decline in strength, stamina and muscle mass within as little as five weeks. This isn’t a small decline, either. The studies reported a loss of up to “9 percent of their muscular power and 11 percent of their aerobic capacity.” The longer one remains inactive, the higher the risk of diabetes and other health complications rises. Even competitive athletes who intensely train for many years don’t have much room for sloth later in life. The benefits of exercise only exist as long as the person remains active. I guess that’s why professional athletes continue to train in the off-season.