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Will You Lose All Your Progress By Taking A Week Off?

So here you are crushing your workouts the past 2 months, seeing some great progress. Getting to the gym a few times and week and doing everything right... But what happens when you're travelling?

Do you just take a break? Or maybe you do everything in your power to keep your hard earned gains and go all out at the gym at your resort or hotel... But what if you don't have a hotel gym?

To be honest, the fitness industry doesn't really do a good job of accommodating the average individual's schedule, especially when it comes to vacation or travel time. Most articles and workouts found online have strict guidelines to adhere to. Rightfully so, as that's how you get the best results. But what about when you have a vacation coming up? Or a work conference to attend for a week?

Don't worry, you'll be relieved to hear that you likely won't ruin all your gains by missing a week. In fact, you'll hardly mess yourself up at all according to Greg Nuckols - http://www.strengtheory.com/grow-like-a-new-lifter-again/

Just a heads up, I love Greg's work. It's all research based and has opened my eyes to some findings on advanced issues I've wondered about myself in the past. However, these articles are considerably longer than the average so to save you some time, I would just scroll down to "2. Time away from the gym" for a quicker summary. This is specifically intended for people looking to build muscle.

Just like anything else in fitness, how you should train while you're away really depends on what your goal is.

If your goal is to build muscle, taking a week off of the gym won't be detrimental. Your body can actually take advantage of the break via something called "Super-compensation". A fancy ass word for "you've broken down and exhausted muscle fibers, triggered growth, and now let your body rest so it can grow bigger and stronger than it previously was." Regarding you eat enough, rest enough and work out hard enough in the first place. Similar concept to having a de-load week. Although a de-load week still stimulates your muscles and the movement, just not enough to really produce damage or a big metabolic disturbance.

On the other hand, if your goal is fat loss, it's more likely you'll want to continue exercising if possible when travelling. Why?

After working out, your metabolism increases and insulin sensitivity improves which plays a huge role in fat loss and keeping your hormone balance in check. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise improve insulin sensitivity. You also burn calories while working out which can add to the fat loss effect however, its usually a much smaller amount than people think. So don't let that be an excuse for eating everything in sight and drinking your face off on vacation. An average workout of moderate-high intensity burns roughly 500 calories per hour. That can EASILY be negated by making poor meal choices the rest of your day.

I'm not saying you'll blow up like a balloon if you don't workout for a week. Your body may be calorie deprived and in need of a week off to recover. Having said that, there is an optimal way to give your body a "break" while still losing fat.

Solution

Like I said before, you probably don't have to worry about taking a week off but if you do want to continue exercising, this is what you should do:

Building Muscle and Strength

This is a perfect time to practice some body weight movements and hone in on form. If you don't have access to a gym while on vacation, you can get some solid light work in with variations of push up, squats and core work. When performing these exercises, you really want to focus on the mind muscle connection. Focus on contracting the right muscles.This will still stimulate the muscle but not contribute to overall fatigue.

If you're itching for a more intense workout, turn those body weight movements into plyometric exercises. Clap Push ups, Jump Squats for time, Depth Jumps off of, or to a Box/Steps. Those exercises will ensure you're Type 2 Fibers are stimulated AND leave you out of breath.

Fat Loss

You don't need any extremely specific or intense workout to continue losing fat when away from the gym for a week. It's a great opportunity to focus on short interval workouts, something like a bodyweight Tabata workout or even something like a short run (yeah I said it). This allows your body to recover from stress whether it be from weight training or running and still provide a metabolic after burn.

Believe it or not, when it comes to fat loss, the age old thought process of "eat less exercise more" only works to a certain extend. Eventually, it catches up to you, and your body can:

  1. Go into starvation mode and hold onto fat
  2. Have unbalanced hormones which make it difficult to burn fat and gain muscle

To ensure that doesn't happen, you can continue to eat less but also exercise less, OR eat more and exercise more. Just until you start feeling like yourself again (usually 1-2 weeks), then you can get back to what you were doing. While on vacation, its clearly much easier to exercise less, and also eat more.

That's exactly what a good vacation is for! Recovery! Your mind AND your body could use the rest! Don't stress over not exercising enough or eating out too much (try not to overdo it). Enjoy yourself and be happy. That alone will rejuvenate your hormones and improve recovery so when you get back home you're ready to hit the gym HARD.