If your high school coach ever scared you into believing that too many off days would be the demise of your training, he may have been on to something. In fact, most experts agree that after two weeks, you’re in trouble if you don’t get back in the gym.
“At the two week point without exercising, there are a multitude of physiological markers that naturally reveal a reduction of fitness level,” says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S, a New York-based exercise physiologist and trainer who works with elite athletes.
After all, despite all of its abilities, the human body (even the fit human body) is a very sensitive system—and physiological changes (muscle strength or a greater aerobic base) that come about through training will simply disappear if your training load dwindles, he notes. Since the demand of training isn’t present, your body has nothing to adapt to—and simply slinks back toward baseline.
Of course, how much and how quickly you’ll decondition depends on a slew of factors like how fit you are, your age, and how long sweating has been a habit. It’s worth it to get back on the wagon, too: “Two to eight months of not exercising at all will reduce your fitness level to as if you never exercised before,” Weiss notes.
Don’t let it get to that point. Understanding what’s going on beneath the skin after about 14 days of rest overload will be immediate motivation to get moving again.