Nandini Reddy explores what happens to your fitness and body when you stop running.
There are many reasons as to why you had to take a break from your running. It could be because of an injury, family commitment, work schedules or just mental fatigue after you have finished your goal marathon. This is perfectly normal for even the most committed runner, a niggling question that stays in your head is about how long you can take this break.
So there are a lot of researchers who decided to study about how long does fitness last once you stop training. The short answer is within a few weeks your lungs and heart show the affects of not training.
What happens to your body
So once you stop cold turkey after being an avid runner then the first two weeks are bliss. Your muscles recover, you feel more relaxes and you still have all the benefits of the training. Once you hit the four week mark the blood volume drops significantly which means your heart is working less harder now. Runners heart are generally working overtime to continuously supply oxygen to those muscles that are constantly under stress. In another four weeks, muscles are all recovered and any minor tissue stress is also rectified. The lungs and heart are working lesser and if you were to even run on a treadmill now you will notice a change in the time it takes for you to be exhausted. Sustaining a hard pace will be a bit difficult and an easy pace will be what you can achieve. Researchers estimated that endurance performance decreases by nearly 25% after four weeks of no exercise.
What happens to your mind
The first two weeks are good for your mental health because you get to recoup from the punishing training schedules and your body also starts to feel more energetic. The niggling aches and pains will disappear over a four week period. But what happens to your mind after that? Running helps in keeping you happy. In fact any form of exercise has the power to increase positivism. When there is a break the first few weeks seem alright but slowly the anxiety starts to set in. Many runners who took long breaks have described as having signs of depression even. A few weeks off running has a positive effect but a prolonged break seems to have only negative effects on the mind.
So can you restart?
The first thing to remember is that you cannot pick up where you left off. Your body has changed and this has to be taken into consideration while drawing up your training plans. If you try to hit the same statistics with a vengeance you run the risk of injury. The first step is to adjust your mind and ease back into a schedule that is low stress. For the first week keep it easy. Do short runs in terms of distance and time. If all is well then go ahead and plan longer runs in the next week. Build up your pace and distance endurance over the next four weeks.
You can stop running. Sometimes you just need a break but remember that when you restart again, it is important that you respect the fact that you took a break and are now ready to begin anew.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.