Surprising Results of a Three-Week Fitness Lay-Off

MP900182524[1]I’m reminded of a quote from a famous violinist: “If I don’t practice for one day, I can tell.  If I don’t practice for two days, my conductor can tell.  If I don’t practice for three days, the audience can tell.”

A few months ago, I laid off all exercise for three weeks straight, partly due to a long vacation, partly to see how much my fitness would deteriorate.

Here’s what I found:

  • My time for the one-mile run increased from 8 mins and 54 seconds to 9 mins and 30 seconds
  • My maximum number of push-ups increased from 32 to 36
  • My maximum number of sit-ups increased from 32 to 34
  • My maximum number of pull-ups increased from 8 to 9


Strength measures increased, surprisingly.  Was it just a good day, or did my muscles need the time off to rest and re-build?  Over-training is a real problem for some folks.  At 20 minutes of weight-training twice a week, I doubt I was anywhere near what most consider over-training.  I don’t fiddle-fart around during my exercise sessions, but I’m not puking either.

So I won’t feel too bad in the future if I take a couple or three weeks off from strength training periodically.

My endurance for running deteriorated significantly.  Is it related to the lack of strength training, the lack of treadmill interval work, or both?

Your mileage will vary.

Steve Parker, M.D.

2 responses to “Surprising Results of a Three-Week Fitness Lay-Off

  1. Dr. Parker…I’m 62 years old and recently decided, thanks to you and others, that I want to do more than just a daily walk. I’m a type 2. So I figured I needed to ramp up slowly with the pushups and sit ups … maybe start with 10 or 15 twice a day or so. Long story short, I could not do ONE of either! Not one! I was absolutely shocked. If someone is in good shape for their age, there’s no reason folks much older than me shouldn’t be doing some basic physical exercise beyond a stroll around the block or the golf course. But as I discovered, the years make a huge difference and IF someone thinks they can do sit ups and pushups anytime, they would do well to try it. After years of inactivity, the loss of muscle and muscle tone takes its toll. Particularly with sit ups, it literally felt like I just no longer had those muscles required to do them. They were just gone…