How to Maintain Your Fitness When Your Holiday Schedule Gets Tight
Tips from PHASE IV CEO, Robert Forster, PT
As we enter the time of the year when busy schedules and shorter, colder days cramp your dedicated exercise time, it is a good idea to examine what happens to your body when you start to miss your workouts.
In sports science the reversal of the beneficial physiological fitness adaptations that occur with exercise is called detraining. Although it takes months to develop these adaptations, detraining starts quickly and progresses rapidly.
As you skip workouts and assume a more sedentary lifestyle your body begins to lose the hard fought fitness and health benefits of your usual exercise routine. This means, in just a few weeks you start losing strength, endurance, speed and the metabolic efficiency that you have worked so hard to establish.
First, your metabolism slows down and the number of calories your body will burn at rest lessens. Combine the relative inactivity with a rich Holiday diet and you will suffer the insidious holiday weight gain that is all too common.
While short periods of inactivity are easy to make up, and are necessary at least once a year to allow for full body recovery, after about two weeks the impact of not exercising gets progressively more detrimental.
At first the results are not outwardly noticeable; within 2-7 days your body begins to shed water that was added to your circulatory system in response to months of workouts. This reduction in the blood plasma volume means your heart has to pump faster to deliver the same amount of oxygen carrying blood to your organs and muscles every minute.
Additionally, with less water available for sweating, core body temperature is harder to maintain during exercise and activity. Likewise, your body’s ability to store glycogen, the carbohydrate based compound that powers your muscles, begins to decline.
Over the course of months of consistent training, the increases in blood plasma volume and stored muscle fuel have assisted your workouts and helped you perform better. Now, with inactivity these advantageous physical adaptations start deteriorating fast. The good news is that they are also easy to regain once you start training regularly again.
It’s between 2-4 weeks that the loss of fitness holds more long lasting implications. Your ability to perform high intensity exercise can decline up to 14% in this time frame.You will see higher-than-normal exercise heart rates and find it easier to fatigue as your muscles begin to lose their ability to extract oxygen from the red blood cells in your bloodstream.
Compounding the problem is a 3% decrease in the number of red blood cells themselves which further reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood.Inactivity also starts to deplete the the size and number of the energy power plants in nmuscle cells called mitochondria. It’s in these organelles that fat, protein and lactate are turned into useable energy to power your muscles.
Likewise, the capillary network of blood vessels that delivery oxygen and fuel to your muscles and take away the byproducts of exercise, begin to decline. Put all of this together and within 3-4 weeks of limited activity you are less equipped to sustain continuous movement for life activities, sport or fitness workouts and your sluggish metabolism starts to add pounds around your midsection.
How To Avoid De-training During The Busy Holiday Season
Make Every Workout Count
With less time for your workouts and a hectic schedule robbing you of your recovery time too, it’s imperative that each opportunity you find to exercise is maximized with heart rate specific training .The PHASE IV Exercise Physiology staff provides our clients with time efficient workout plans in the most productive target heart rate zones. Heart rate specific exercise will maintain each of the energy systems and keep your metabolism primed to burn more calories, in the least amount of time.
Keep an Open Mind for Cross Training
Runners are in love with running and cyclist love their bikes. The mere thought of an elliptical or stationary bike workout, even in a pinch, can make most hard core fitness enthusiasts and athletes a little anxious. Mention that water based pool exercise workouts are the best cross training modality of all, and out right hostility may ensue.
However, subjecting your body to an unaccustomed exercise stimulus provides additional stress and a more robust hormonal reaction that will kick your metabolism into high gear and burn more calories. Walking is the most convenient and accessible cross training workout but don’t be afraid to break your typical exercise routine to maintain your fitness and manage Holiday stress.
Get by With Less Volume
In sports science, the total time spent exercising in a day, week or month is called “volume”.In general terms you can maintain much of your current fitness with a 50% reduction in your workout volume, but only if the workouts are performed at the appropriate intensity.
Maintain Your Base Fitness
At least once a week string together an extended period of low heart rate activity. If you can only sneak away for short stint of exercise, plan for an extended walk with family and friends immediately after the workout. These extended periods of movement will stimulate your body to maintain the endurance fitness adaptions that enable you to burn more fat for energy. Long, low intensity bouts of exercise will preserve the network of capillary blood vessels as well.
Once a Week High Intensity Interval Training
A series of short bursts of increased exercise intensity followed by a period of recovery in the lower heart rate zones, is called an interval workout. Although high heart rate workouts have their place in a scientifically rational exercise plan they should be reserved until after a fitness based has been established. Not only do they present an increased potential for over training, illness and injury, they are less effective unless the above mentioned fitness adaptations have already been accomplished.
However, if you desire to maintain your fitness heading into a period where exercise time is hard to find, interval training is time efficient and a powerful stimulant for your metabolism.With meaningful planning, PHASE IV experts will create 1-2 relatively condensed, heart rate specific interval training sessions for these busy holiday weeks to not only preserve your fitness, but boost it towards a peak.
For more information on smart training through the holidays, call PHASE IV at: 310-582-8212