Get Your Fitness Back After the Holiday Slump
Anyone who has a regular exercise routine has struggled with the post-holiday slump. After a week or more enjoying the sun, sea, snow or wherever else you like to take a break, you return feeling stiffer, weaker and more easily fatigued.
You might be tempted to throw yourself back into your usual routine, thinking it will be a shortcut to where you were before so you can get back on track quickly. Instead, you’re far more likely to injure yourself, taking you out of action for days, weeks or even months.
In my experience, this is how I see the vast majority of gym injuries occur. If you’ve taken a break from your routine for a week or more, it’s essential that you go easy on yourself on your return.
How much is too much?
A general rule of thumb is to decrease your exertion or load by around 30%. If you work with a trainer like myself, they’ll likely do this for you, but if you have an unsupervised regime you’ll have to discipline yourself to stick to this easier routine.
If you’re doing body weight, resistance band or any other exercise where you’re working with a set load, decrease your repetitions. So, if you usually do 20 push ups, lower that down to 14. With weights or machines where you can control the load, it’s safer to reduce the resistance than the repetitions. That means if you would usually squat 60kg, reduce it down to 40kg.
For running or other endurance exercise, simply reduce the distance or time that you’re targeting, possibly even less than 30%. Cardiovascular capacity is the first aspect of fitness to be affected by inactivity, so focus on your breathing to retrain your lungs and heart and stop before you fully exhaust yourself.
Finally, when doing stretches or mobility exercises such as yoga or Pilates, judging how to reduce your load is a bit more tricky. In these cases, complete the movement or pose up to the point that you are feeling uncomfortable, but don’t push beyond that, even if you could easily touch your toes before your break, for example.
How long until I’m back to normal?
You might find this approach frustrating, especially if you’re a real fitness fanatic. But the good news is it only usually takes two weeks to return to where you were before your break, which flies by in no time.
This is far better than the alternative of trying to push your body and force it back to where you were, only to land yourself with an injury and all the recovery and rehab that comes with it. Easing off might be frustrating, but nowhere near as frustrating as tendinitis or a torn muscle.
However, if you’ve taken longer off — say, a month or more — then you need to start from square one. For all your exercises, reduce back down the minimum to find your new base and build back up from there.
It’s useful to have a base programme of simple body weight exercises that you can fall back on should you be absent from your usual routine for some time. You could also even try to maintain such a routine while you’re in your hotel room, but in my experience, any good intentions to continue exercising while on break don’t last very long.
If you want help getting back on track, why not book a session with me? Or, if you have found yourself with a post-holiday injury, get in touch with one of our world-class physios by calling 0207 937 1628 or emailing email@example.com.