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Resuming Training After Time Off

There was an interesting article in the NY Times last month entitled, “Short Layoff, Long Comeback.” Despite the pessimistic title, I actually found the information very encouraging.

The article starts out by talking about how the body quickly de-conditions while not training. In particular, blood plasma is lost after just a few days. It also suggests that one will never reach his potential if he only trains, say, once a week.

But there is plenty of good news in the article, including:

  • One does not need to spend much time training to keep his speed as long as the intensity of his training sessions is high. “A runner who’s been running doesn’t need much time to maintain his performance,” claimed Dr. Coyle for . “But the training needs to be almost like racing.”
  • After not training for a few months, one can regain his fitness level for a specific activity much quicker than it took when he was first starting out. I.e., the body has a great memory, so not training for a long time is not the same as going back to scratch.

Indeed, I think the article should have been called, “Long Layoff, Short Comeback”—especially since it ended with this anecdote:

He agreed to be a subject in one of Dr. Coyle’s deconditioning studies, which required him to stop running entirely for 12 weeks.

When he started running again, Dr. Joyner could hardly believe it. Running was so hard, he was so slow, he became tired so fast. But he persevered, running 30 miles a week for the first couple of weeks and then increasing his mileage.

“I just sort of got back with the group and started pushing it,” he said. Which, of course, is the key.

“A lot of coming back is knowing how to read your body and how to manage your suffering,” Dr. Joyner said.

But there are real rewards.

I was back to normal again in about a month,” Dr. Joyner said.

Hmmm, he was back at his peak level in one month after not training at all for three months? NOT BAD!

The full article is here.

Felix, Sharon, Bic, and Bob after finishing the 2006 Ironman Arizona triathlon.
Felix, Sharon, Bic, and Bob after finishing the 2006 Ironman Arizona triathlon.