Today’s reader question comes from Gail in Los Angeles.
What do you do when you have to take a break from exercise and you’re worried that all of your hard work will be undone?
This is a great question as many women worry about weight gain or a loss of fitness when they temporarily can’t exercise.
You might be able to resonate?
I sure do!
These past 15 months have been really challenging for me to get into a workout groove as I adjust to life with a busy toddler and a cross-country move, all the while building a naptime empire! 😀
Fortunately, I have the inside scoop on exercise, weight loss and all things healthy living…
So I’m excited to walk you through the three different things you need to know about handling this situation.
Let’s dive in!
Taking a break from exercise can actually improve your fitness levels.
Do you know how muscle is built?
It’s not by lifting weights or doing yoga or pushups.
At least, not directly.
Here’s how it works…
(This is important, so un-glaze your eyes my friend!)
When you exercise you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers.
After the workout, your body repairs these damaged fibers by fusing them together to form new, thicker and stronger, muscle protein strands in a process called muscle protein synthesis.
But here’s the clincher — this can only happen while you rest.
You read that right! You are not building muscle WHILE you exercise, but during the period of rest AFTER your workout.
The intensity of your workout and the rate at which your body can create these adaptations will both determine how long you need to rest between workouts, but what I know for sure is that exercising the same way every day is not going to benefit your body.
And sometimes being forced to take a longer break — be that from injury, illness, or just some much needed time off from the gym — will see you return stronger, fitter and more enthused (even if those first sessions back feel a little rough).
Intensity Isn’t Synonymous With Results
Women can panic when they need to change the type of exercise they do because of injury, illness or to make it more age-appropriate.
Perhaps their knees or pelvic floor aren’t up to high-intensity training any more…
(I feel you!)
But they think that bringing things down a notch will lead to weight gain.
Fear not, my friend.
Intensity is not synonymous with results.
In fact, high-intensity workouts are more likely to damage joints, tendons and muscles, forcing a (long) exercise hiatus.
And you can achieve the same great, fat-burning, muscle toning results with low impact training like TRX, barre, walking & hiking , rowing, cycling, boxing, and my own fat-blasting low-impact workouts.
So don’t be afraid to try something new. Your joints will thank you for it and you might find a change of pace really quite enjoyable.
Exercise Is The Least Important Aspect Of Weight Loss & Weight Maintenance.
Here’s the thing — exercise IS important…
It tones your muscles, helps maintain bone density, reduces risk of several diseases, improves blood flow, eases aches and pains, is great for your mood and doing it can make you feel more inspired to make healthier decisions overall.
But it’s also just one slice of the wellness pie, and there are four things that have a greater impact on your ability to slim down and shape up, including what you eat, the quality of your rest, your mindset and the hobbies that keep you engaged when you’re in a fitness funk.
Let’s take a quick peek!
The food you eat will have a more direct impact on your health than your workouts do.
This is what keeps your metabolism revving, your energy levels high and fat storage low, and reduces your risk for chronic disease, like obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and so on.
So instead of panicking that you need to take a break from the gym, use that time to improve your diet by eating the right combination of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, protein and fat.
Keeping in mind that healthy eating is actually very easy to do.
And when you do return to fitness it’s no excuse to eat unhealthy food or eat more food than you need just because you “worked it off.”
(Doing that will lead to weight gain more quickly than not exercising at all!)
Rest is also more important than exercise if you’re chronically tired or stressed.
Exercising in a state of exhaustion increases cortisol levels, which can lead to fat storage.
Numerous studies have shown a direct link between sleep deprivation and weight gain.
This isn’t to say that you should never exercise if you’re tired — movement can boost your energy — but you need to consider the lifestyle factors that are keeping you stuck in that rut.
> How can you manage your stress?
> Reorder your to-do list to have more downtime?
> Or prioritize getting to bed early so you CAN workout during the day without negative side effects.
Next is your mindset and this is the most important one of all.
If you exercise because you’re punishing your body for how it looks or what you ate, you will never enjoy your workout or feel proud of your results.
Similarly, if you berate yourself every time you skip a workout or don’t do “well” you’ll be less likely to make physical activity a regular part of your routine.
And if you fear that not exercising will make you gain weight or lose muscle tone then you need to practice self-love.
Your weight and fitness levels are not a reflection of your worth as a woman, and you’ll emerge healthier after injury if you dedicate yourself to personal care and positive thoughts rather than feeling anxious about what might happen by taking time off.
Finally, what hobbies and passion projects can temporarily replace fitness in your routine?
If you’re an avid exerciser and find yourself at a loose end without that physical outlet you may fall into self-sabotaging behaviors, like overeating, negative talk, excessive shopping, or whatever it might be.
Instead, think about what creative pursuits could temporarily take the place of exercise until you get back on your feet. This would be a perfect opportunity to start a new hobby, learn a language, catch-up on reading, socialize, or anything else that lights a spark in your soul.
So if you need to take a break from exercise due to injury, don’t sweat it. Instead, dedicate that time to improving these other key areas and know that when you are ready to get back in the swing of fitness you’ll return stronger and more inspired.
As always, thank you for sending in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, I really love having these conversations with you.
Please continue this chat by leaving a comment below telling me which of the five wellness areas — food, fitness, rest, mindset, and hobbies — need more of your attention this week.
2 thoughts on “How To Avoid Weight Gain When You Take a Break From Exercise”
This really talked to me. The fear of not exercising made me sad and afraid. I was forced into a two week break. To the contrary, the break allowed me to rest my mind and body, and rethink my fitness regime. It only took 3 weeks to pretty much fully return to my original level of physical fitness. I had to change the approach and intensity, and be flexible. It was refreshing. Jennifer was right – the rest rejuvenated, all was not lost, and so much was gained.
I’m so glad that was your experience Gail. It shows you that, in the future, taking breaks will not only doable but also beneficial, so you can schedule in some exercise down-time every now and again.
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment 🙂