Despite what you might think, we all need a break from the gym. Sometimes, it’s out of necessity because of an injury. Other times, it’s because you just don’t have time.
On subreddits and fitness forums alike, you’ll read messages written by users concerned about “losing progress” if they decide to go on a week-long holiday without a workout. But I’m here to tell you: You’ll be fine taking a little time away from the gym. In fact, you’ll likely be better off because of it — a lot of lifting programs even incorporate deloaded “rest weeks.”
“Although taking a week off from the gym might sound nuts to you, it’s actually an important element of long-term progress,” Philip Stefanov writes for the Thinking Lifter. “You see, lifting weights puts a lot of stress on your nervous system, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Over time, that stress builds up and your performance starts to fall off. You start feeling achy, weak, de-motivated to lift, and so on. Your muscles need time to rebuild and recover to get stronger.”
Personally, and by the end of a holiday, I look forward to getting back to the gym, in the same way you might be re-invigorated at work or anything you do over and over again. “A break also can give us a mental boost and motivate us to work even harder,” Steve Ball, a professor of nutritional science and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, said on email. “I recommend it, especially if your fitness levels have plateaued.”
If one week turns into another and then another, then yes — you might lose progress however you define it, whether it’s building muscle, maintaining endurance or weight loss. (You mind read from various sources that it takes anywhere from two to three weeks to lose any strength or muscle mass, but it’s insignificant in the long run.)
And yes, your first workout back from holiday might take a hit. After a recent case of food poisoning in Japan, I wasn’t exactly primed to lift my normal weights, but it only took about two weeks to return to my usual numbers.
If you absolutely cannot live without a workout while on holiday, I get it: Find a group class near you, use the hotel gym or just do an online search for popular gyms at your destination with available day passes. And if there aren’t any gyms around you, try to enjoy your time off — you’ll be fine, I promise.