Our bodies need time for rest and repair, so taking a day or two off each week can be a great way to keep our bones and muscles healthy and to avoid overtraining and injury. For you, that means don’t freak out if you skip one workout or two because you’re not feeling up to it or are going on vacation—you will be able to bounce back and you might be doing the best thing for your body, anyway!
Yet, when that one or two days turns into weeks and more, it can become a pattern of lack of exercise that can be hard to break free from. And if you’re no longer working out regularly, it can lead to a few mental and physical changes over time. That’s what you want to avoid, as getting into a habit of regularly working out can be hard! Here’s what really happens if you skip a workout (or more) for a certain period of time.
If you skip one workout, you will NOT gain weight or lose your drive. Really, it’s actually a good thing! Your body needs to take time to rebuild damaged muscles, so if you’ve worked out the day before and did a HIIT or strength training session, you are actually letting your muscles heal the following day by not taxing them again with another grueling workout.
You might feel a bit more relaxed this day, as well as the next day—don’t be surprised if you wake up the following morning feeling awesome and ready to tackle another workout! If you are not set in a fitness regimen or you went especially hard the day before, you might feel sore. And that means you are doing the right thing by taking this day off! Think of your body as a warning detector. If you’re too stiff or sore, that means you need to repair.
If you decide to go on vacation, have an injury, or just don’t feel like working out for a week, these seven days might lead to a slight weight gain or none at all.
If there is a gain, it’s nothing crazy, perhaps a pound or so, depending on what you’re eating during the week and how active you’ve been in your day-to-day lifestyle. If you’re used to burning more calories and you quit working out and go on vacation with delicious summery cocktails and comfort foods, then yes, you might gain a bit more.
Still, if you’re not indulging but just ditching the workout, you might stay the same in weight and actually benefit, as this time off can be a refresh. At one week off, the mental aspect is more key than physical. It might be mentally difficult to get back into training after a week off. This is when you need to really push yourself to commit again
Plus, you might expect to feel a bit out of shape when returning to the gym. That first workout after a week will be tough, but it’s nothing compared to when you take even more time off from working out. Which brings us to…
This is when physical changes begin to set in. Your V02 max (a measurement of your body’s effectiveness to transport and utilize oxygen when working out) decreases with time off from exercise, and by two weeks, it will show some significant changes in how well you can train.
For when you do get to that first workout after two weeks off, it will surely be hard. Strength training will be affected, where you might need to go down in weights at first, but aerobic workouts will be mostly unchanged. You might find it harder to run for as long or as fast as you normally would. You may have gained a little weight—but nothing that would be too drastic — unless you were dramatically changing your diet and taking in excess calories for the whole two weeks, in addition to the lack of activity.
The mental game is the biggest hurdle to re-entry here. It can be draining to not feel as accomplished and strong during workouts—but don’t let it keep you away any longer! If you’re fatigued during or after your return workout, remember to stick with it and keep up the good work to get back to where you were. Don’t fear—with some motivation and dedication, you’ll be back to kicking butt from two weeks prior!