What happens if I stop training? The Principle of Reversibility

Nothing lasts forever. And what can disappear much faster than it took to achieve is strength and fitness gains. The principal of reversibility is very simple to understand…

Use it or lose it.

The art of maintaining (and improving) what we have is a little more complicated. This shows the fluid state of the body, ever changing whether it is growing or shrinking.

Losing what we have gained can occur due to a variety of reasons; illness, injury, holidays or changes in our type of exercise. “De-training” is another word that is often used to define reversibility. Depending on what component of fitness you’ve been working on, de-training can start to occur rapidly. Aerobic fitness (cardiovascular) will begin to decrease after as little as 15 days.

There are estimates that as much as 5 months of training can be lost in 6-8 weeks.

Adaptations such as strength and power take less time to lose and depending on what type of individual you are, these will vary.

At the other end of the curve, if we have lost some aerobic or strength gains, it is much easier to pick it back up rather than starting again. Although if you’ve ever had a period of no or low exercise, the first few sessions may not quite feel like it!

Anyone who has been training long enough will understand that the fitter you get, the harder it is to get even fitter. At some point we will hit our upper limit and plateau.

This is not necessarily a bad thing….

You’ve completed enough training in a certain style that your body needs something different to improve. A plateau is a sign that its time for a new or different challenge. And it might only be a minor change. You don’t need to swap weightlifting for Pilates or rock climbing for scuba diving.

Perhaps you’ve done the same workout in the gym for months, or run the same loop in your neighborhood and have been unable to improve your time. Maybe all you need to do is change your running routine or move your body through different exercises at different speeds.

What ever you do, don’t stop!