Gotta Run: How Fast Do You Lose Fitness When You Stop Running?
Published 12:00 on Saturday, December 3, 2022
Most runners and even some dedicated walkers don’t like to miss a day. What happens when we take time off and how quickly does it take to lose fitness? Sometimes there is an injury that needs to heal or some other important medical reason to stop for a while. Rarely is there a certain stalemate in training where none of the runs are fun and nothing else has worked.
Earlier in the year, I had my own worries about missing time when I had a kidney stone and a resulting blood infection that caused a hospital stay and only minor exercise for a month. I started researching how long we could maintain our normal fitness level once we quit.
It appears that the fitness decline begins to occur within just a few days. Runners World posted an article saying, “It only takes a few days to get out of shape. That’s okay. Stop running for just a week, and your maximum aerobic capacity (max. VO2), one of the key indicators of performance potential, begin to decline. Take two to three weeks off, and you’ll add a minute or more to your 5K time. Stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped by the heart per beat, also increases within three weeks by “Down 10 percent or more. Even your muscles’ aerobic enzymes (key chemicals that help produce the energy you need to run) drop by 25 percent or more in 21 days.”
And here’s their suggestion on how to stay in shape while taking a break that isn’t related to injury or medical condition. Don’t stop exercising, but do it on a limited basis and you won’t lose fitness. Dr. Owen Anderson said: “During your break, run just once a week if you normally train three or four times, or twice a week if you normally train five to seven times. For each session, complete mile repeats at your 5-K pace (the speed at which you would have run the 5-K before your break began). Divide your usual weekly mileage by 10 to determine how many repetitions to do. For example, if you ran 30 miles a week before your break, do three 1-mile repeats per workout. The mile repeats will almost completely prevent losses in running capacity. In other words, you will get a break without losing fitness.”
After years of running almost daily, I felt like I was starting over after my own period of downtime. We have worked too hard to give away so much fitness by choice.
I mentioned meteor showers in a previous article. Looking for two more chances to see them, the first is across the night sky from Tuesday, December 13, into the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 14, as the Geminid meteor shower peaks at as many as 100 meteors per hour. A bright moon can limit visibility.
The last possibility is on the longest night of the year, December 21, when the Ursid rain appears to come from the Ursa Minor or the Little Bear. I will be looking for both!
Our next running event on December 10th is one of the friendliest events of the year, Santa’s Run for Hunger 5K and Fun Run. The Millbridge Ruritans host Santa every year on this day and all proceeds will benefit Rowan Helping Ministries. Held in conjunction with the Holiday Bigfoot Reunion, camping and “meet and greets” are scheduled with the big furry creatures along Kerr Mill Road. A human big-foot shoe competition will be held after the race with all runners and volunteers who qualify by wearing shoes over size 10 for women and 12 for men. A pancake breakfast will be held after the run/walk and all participants may wear jingle bells, presumably to prevent startling any visiting Bigfoots near the camping area.
Find more information about this and other upcoming events at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org