In the past few weeks I think we’ve all realized that working out during a global pandemic is not necessarily ideal. Having a gym at your disposal has a lot of perks: You have a wide selection of equipment, high ceilings, you don’t have to worry about noise, and in Solcana’s case you have lots of programming options at your fingertips. Being suddenly confined to your home where you may have limited equipment, confined space to work out in, and you may or may not be worried about waking up someone downstairs if you keep knocking out sets of burpees. I think the important thing about getting into a routine with our online classes (or doing workouts at home on your own time) is that we’re all sticking to something. More on that in a bit.
We’ve been reaching out to all of our members to see how we can help in this weird time. We’ve gotten lots of great feedback. The most common concern I’ve seen expressed has been “I’m going to lose all of my gains/progress!” I’m here to tell you – you’re probably not! In fact, preventing that from happening might even be kind of easy.
There’s been a good amount of scientific study put into “detraining” which just means, well, you stop working out. You do nothing instead of something. It’s a very straightforward concept. Strength training and cardio training have been studied in this regard and with both I think the results are not entirely shocking: If someone trains a particular thing, then stops doing that thing, they stop being as good at it. If someone gets really strong in the squat, then stops squatting entirely, after a few weeks (usually 3+) their strength in the squat is going to start to decay. If someone can run a mile in 6 minutes, and they stop running for several weeks, that mile time gets longer.
The important thing about this is that in these examples, these imaginary people are stopping entirely. But we’re not going to do that! Some important tidbits:
In one of these studies, some folks were able to maintain most of their muscle mass by lifting volumes of all the way down to 1/9th of what they were doing previously. That’s wild! That’s a very big difference. In fact, if you’re working out at home you are likely surpassing that amount already.
Doing things like squats, deadlifts, pressing variations, etc not only keep us within that maintenance-level volume of lifting (even at very light weight!), but they help us hang on to our technique. Technique decays much faster than strength. This is why when we do a deload week at the gym, we don’t just stop lifting entirely. We want to keep those motor pathways firing in our big ol’ strong brain so we lift some lighter weights for a while as our body recovers.
Endurance was maintained with a 60%-90% drop in overall endurance training volume. That’s a HUGE drop, and again if you’re working out from home you are likely surpassing that amount already. On top of this, some data suggests that strength training can help maintain endurance capacity, and even low intensity activity like walking or biking will help stay in the maintenance zone.
If you take away anything from this post I hope it is this: More than anything else, consistent behavior is what will help you hang on to your gains while the gym is closed. Even if it is entirely different than what your previous fitness schedule looked like. When I say “consistent” I’m not saying you have to start hitting it hard every single day. Maybe you’re working from home and you’ve got a few kids running around and it’s hard to find a chunk of time more than once a week for exercise. Ok. Then your consistency can start with once a week, and that is fine. We are navigating a complexly difficult time. For a lot of us, a whole lot has changed about our daily lives in a very short amount of time, and none of us really know for sure where things are headed. That can be scary and overwhelming. We can only do what we are able to. If we give ourselves a break and do what we can when we can, we will be happier for that moment when we get reacquainted with the barbells in the future. They aren’t going anywhere.
If you want more in depth info on detraining check out https://sci-fit.net/detraining-retraining/.
Greg Nuckols’ article at https://www.strongerbyscience.com/no-gym/ is a great resource of movements you can do at home, and also an additional nice reminder that, thought it may seem like it, we aren’t all going to get out of shape by working out at home for a while.