Should you take the holidays off your usual fitness routine?

A friend on Facebook was fretting about this article in men’s fitness about what happens to your body in two weeks with no exercise.

The thing is, fitness isn’t all one thing.

Strength takes awhile to decline. But running fitness? That’s sad.

I remember once when a professor from Kinesiology came to speak to my group at the Running Room. It wasn’t particularly motivational. He was talking about fitness declines. Running is the worst, he said, for how fast you lose speed and endurance. He was also a runner but even he agreed that training for strength is better in terms of staying with you.

Ditto the person interviewed for men’s fitness.

Here is exercise physiologist and coach Scott Weiss,

“Aerobic and endurance fitness reduce a lot faster than muscle mass—it’s the performance factor that is reduced the fastest,” says Weiss. Physiologically, the changes are stark, too. Weiss says: Stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart to the body) reduces, the size of mitochondria (the power plants within a cell, linked to fitness health) reduce by almost 50 percent, heart rate increases, cardiac output reduces, and your VO2 max—or the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use (a gold standard of physical fitness) decreases about one percent a day. Another setback: Your lactate threshold—or how hard and long you can work out until your muscles tell you to stop—begins to drop, says Holland. (This stinks because working out at or close to your lactate threshold is a great way to build fitness; if yours is low you won’t last very long, and thus you’ll reap fewer benefits from a gym session.) “You begin to lose endurance capability as well as the ability to perform at higher intensities,” adds Holland.

But, but, but…

Who needs to be at their speed peak in January? Is anyone racing in January? If you are, then maybe don’t take two weeks off. But most of us aren’t.

Also, yes you lose fitness but it’s a process, a journey and peaks and troughs are all part of it. It’s not up up up, fitter and faster, all of the time.

It’s also about having a well balanced life. For me that includes festive meals, time with family and friends, church on Christmas Eve, snuggling on the sofa watching The Hogfather, hot tub time, presents, cookies, new books to read in bed, playing cards and new board games.

Also, dog hikes in the snow but maybe not this year with my injured knee.

Anyway, anyway, enjoy! Life is short. Yes, stay fit but don’t let that goal suck the fun and the meaning out of the rest of your life.

How about you? Do you worry about losing fitness over the holidays?

Scenes from my favorite Christmas movie

4 thoughts on “Should you take the holidays off your usual fitness routine?

  1. The thing is, it literally only takes an hour at most to work out enough to keep fitness from declining. Surely no one needs to snuggle on the sofa 24 hours a day without even an hour to spare? Honestly I just don’t see the reason to slack off over the holidays. Almost everyone is less scheduled up, not more. I mean, do whatever you want, obviously – there is no moral imperative to work out – but don’t pretend that you don’t have time or that somehow an hour of working out a day would keep you from getting to relax, hang with family, etc. And if you’re serious about training goals, don’t skip workouts. Especially not if you’re middle aged, when fitness declines faster and takes more work to get back. (Again, not that one has to be serious about training goals, obviously.)

    1. Yeah. I don’t take two weeks off either. But I do do less. And my point is to not fret about it if you’re in circumstances where taking time off is needed.

  2. I’ll drop from full volume next week, but I’ve been a fan of periodic training and giving my body a chance to rest after hard work. I tend to go 3/4 weeks of intensive training, with a rest/maintenance week to allow my body to recover. Maintenance workouts will still get in there, but it’s a far cry from hitting a full training week in time and effort — probably 1/2 to 2/3 the volume and everything easy.

  3. I’m a running coach and I essentially “fire” my clients during December… they get no training plan, and the only instructions are to run what they feel like, try different activities and spend time with family and friends. The mental break of not HAVING to do something and to sleep in more, spend time doing other things without any guilt or FOMO is invaluable. The little bit of fitness they lose is way worth the mental reset and they are all ready to get back to it on January 1.

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