De-training: The Need to Keep Active this Holiday Season

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Now that the holiday season is upon us with parties, festivities, and shopping excursions abound, many of us curtail our exercise agenda all together until after the New Year when once again we resolve ourselves to a sound exercise program. The problem with this scenario is that the effects of de-training can and will occur if we choose to depart from our exercise routine until after the first of the year.

De-training is the bodyís ability to lose many of the benefits one has gained over the course of a few weeks, months, and yes, even years of activity. Studies have shown that within just seven days of not running, blood volume drops considerably and within 2-4 weeks lactate threshold levels decrease, muscle glycogen levels decrease, and stroke volume decreases. And if you think this is true for runners only, de-training can occur in all levels of cardio activity as well as resistance training. Whenever the body is not being challenged to adapt to the stress of exercise, de-training is often a side effect.

Now if you are getting a tad discouraged, according to the American Council on Exercise the longer you have been exercising and the fitter you are when you stop training, the longer it takes to revert back to your pre-training levels. However, in fit individuals you will still see these effects occur most rapidly within the first 3 weeks before tapering off and by the end of 12 weeks you may even find that all levels of fitness are lost.

If you are fairly new to exercise, your cardiovascular fitness will change quite rapidly and in just a few short weeks you may lose all benefits from all your hard work.

So how do we avoid de-training at this time of the year? Remember that exercise is not an all-or-nothing activity. Just getting in short intense workouts just a few times a week may be all it takes to maintain oneís level of fitness. But try to avoid too many days of rest in between workouts since this scenario can also lead to a decrease in fitness levels. Try scheduling your workouts into your day. For many of us, getting our workouts done first thing in the morning allows for a little more leeway should something come up during the day and we are unable to get to the gym or out for a run.

Many experts agree that if your regular aerobic exercise doesnít fit into your hectic schedule, this is a great time to add some cross training activities--a great opportunity to try something new. In other words, walking and pool running are great cross training activities for runners, while the Stairmaster mill and a spinning class make a nice compliment to outdoor cycling.

The moral of the story is do whatever you can to keep active this holiday season so come January 1st you will be ready to put a little more oomph into your workouts. And if you find that you have missed more workouts than you had anticipated, donít fret-- after all this is a lifestyle and not just a means to getting to a certain number on the scale.

How do you plan on keeping active during the holiday season? Do you find it harder to keep active when the temperatures get colder and life becomes a little more chaotic-and if so, how do your tackle these issues?

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So true! I've seen this dramatically in my MIL -- no wonder I want to build up my strength to help me deal with inevitable aging issues! Report
I love to exercise! (Okay, so I lie. who's perfect?) Report
Cold weather helps me to boost my level of exercise. Then when the warm and hot weather get here, I've increased my fitness to get me through until Fall. I didn't exercise for 3 days at Thanksgiving, but was back to it last night. My plan is to keep the exercise up, still enjoy the Holidays. And when 2009 arrives, I'll be in a great position to get closer to my goal weight. I have SparkPeople to thank! Report
Thanks for this great post! Yes, I almost always get out of the habit of exercise in November & December, mainly due to busy schedules with church programs. I appreciate this info and will be more diligent about working in exercise. Report
Like others, I hadn't realized how soon fitness decreases when our exercise routines get interrupted. I don't do well running outdoors during really cold weather, so I'm thankful to have been given a stationary bike to use this winter. We have just set it up, & this morning I got started on it. That will be my main cardio this winter, & I plan to include strength training two mornings a week. Report
To be honest, this is where I have to be careful. The winter months use to be when I gain weight and said I would take it off by summer. Now I use the treadmill, stability ball and some weird music my kids gave me to exercise. Also, I love Nicole DVD's. Report

My preferred forms of exercise are outdoor cycling and running, but I am very susceptable to cold, so both get curtailed during the colder months. I have a stationary bike at home, but I hate treadmills. I do more strength training, Pilates, yoga, and dance during the winter. And come spring I find that my performance levels in cycling and running have not dropped at all, even though (except for the stationary bike) my cross training is not directly related to running or cycling. Report
I'm in a marathon training group so I don't have the option of not walking or running. I have come to enjoy it. Report
Ran 3 miles that morning & took a long walk after we eat on Thanksgiving. Report
Thanks for this reminder. I haven't been keeping up with exercise over the Thanksgiving holiday, but I'm trying to plan an active December. Report
I don't have a problem with exercise during the holidays. I'm in 2 classes at our local Y and I help our instructor set those classes up. So even if I don't feel like going in, I feel obligate to. It give me the incentive to keep at it. Report
For the first time in my life I'm really enjoying walking and exercising. Over the weekend I rather overdid it and am paying the price now. Hopefully, my ankles will be better tomorrow. I tend to make time for things that are important. Exercise is an important part of a healthier life. Whatever it takes. Report
I barely have time to squeeze in my exercises as it is. However, I have already discovered that it's not good for me to skip workouts - it's too easy to skip another. So, I am going to try my best to keep at it all winter - let alone the holidays. Report
Wow, I didn't realize how drastic your fitness level fall-off would be in such a short amount of down time. Report
I'm just getting myself back up to speed after being unable to exercise for a couple of weeks due to illness. I'm not going to let the holidays get me off the exercise wagon again. Report
When winter comes I get more like a bear and want to hibernate, so I have to force myself to keep active. I got a stationary bike to do that and keep it in the livingroom where I have to see it and remind myself to get on it. I do a lot of walking though and that helps. I do not want to lose my momentum during the holidays. Cleaning and decorating helps too. Report
Now that it's cold outside and snow has already started falling, I have no desire to exercise at all. It would be much easier if I had a fitness buddy, but I have no support from anyone. I read the SP articles and I KNOW that I have to get back on track, but it's not enough. I can read all the reasons why, all day long, but I still can't stay on track. Report
I went to the gym on Thanksgiving- no stopping me! Report
My husband and I do social dancing and during the holidays there are more opportunities to dance away the extra holiday treats! We just danced the hustle for 90 min the day after Thanksgiving. With more parties on the horizon there are more chances to dance. Since we work out regularly we are already in shape to dance for long stretches of time without getting winded. Report
My exercise is part of my daily routine. This time of year doesn't really change that. There will be a couple of days when I'm traveling or staying with the in-laws that I will need to be a little creative in the exercise department. However, the fact that I can climb stairs and not be breathless is AMAZING! Plus, I love the way I look and feel when I am exercising regularly. In addition, my kids see me going to the gym and see that being healthy is important to me. That is a HUGE plus. I hope I can help them stay healthy and not ever worry about needing to lose weight. Report
I work a full-time job AND am in an accelerated MBA program. With that kind of schedule, it is VERY difficult to maintain an exercise program. What I am working on is trying for 30 minutes at a shot, as I tend to fall into that "all or nothing" exercise mentality. I am guilty of de-training, even when I know it's not the best way to go. Sometimes life just gets in the way. However, it does make a noticeable difference when I get my workouts in, so my real goal is just to try and make exercise more regular. Report
I love what I do for exercise. Or you just couldn't get me to do it.
Tai Chi 3 times a week
Water aerobic's, lifting weights, and eliptical 5 times a week
2 hours of line dancing 5 days a week.

I find it hard to get into the pool expecially when the weather is cold. But after I get there and work up a sweat it is easy. You just gotta love what you are doing. Report
I am going to stay with my exercise routine, as I've been doing all year long. Why should this time of year be any different? Report
whoa! This should help me get back on track, also to realize that it's like beginning afresh for me. Been away from the workout routine. I just kept thinking tomorrow. Really today with some walking and tomorrow with more of a workout.
Thanks!! Report
I've never heard of this concept, but it does make sense. Report
I wondered why I was 'feeling the burn' again after having a bit of a 'break' from the high intensity training I had been doing from June-September. Now I KNOW. What a great motivator for not slipping off the wagon or taking too long a break from training. Thanks for this article! Report
Gotta have my a.m. workout, no matter what, or I am a GRUMP! Actually planning to kick it up a notch to fend off winter weight. Luckily, I live in SoCal, so working out outside is almost always an option. Report
Fortunately I live in Florida, and though it does get cold now and then, usually not for long and not too cold to walk. I still plan to utilize my stationary bike and mini trampoline. I'm commited to 60 minutes a day of any combination of walking, rebounding or riding. I know there will be times that my calendar is FULL, but we're only talking 1 hour! Report
The term de-training does make you think twice about going easy and losing the training you've worked so hard on, but as many previous comments state, you can always get it back it again. Problem is getting the motivation to get going again once you get used to using that time for leisure activities rather than for exercise! Report
I try to keep my same routine despite the season. My dog loves the colder weather so we are out in the snow playing regularily. The holidays can be stressful for me so I find my daily workouts really important to keep that in check. Report
I NEVER let anything ruin my time for me & my workouts.. I look forward to them as always. I am here to help all who need that KICK in the BUTT to get going.. getting fit & losing the weight is the BEST gift you can give yourself!!.. Be your own BEST FRIEND!!.. YOU can do it!! Report
Thank you SO much for sparking me up. I was headed towards a rut and now decided to choose another route towards my goal with this new lifestyle starting tomorrow! Hubby & I just agreed to return to the gym asap after our past 4 days of dinners with 4 different groups. A little bout of the flu started our stop or slow down just before Thanksgiving, but we dragged ourselves out to the parties! We only lasted an hr/day at each & enjoyed it all tremendously, but are ready to get back on track.

We had no idea about "detraining" & appreciate the gentle nudge! Report
good entry !!
Well, I have been off exercising for a couple of weeks. I just have been so extremely tired and had so much to do. So, I guess I'll get back into it! Thanks for the motivation. Report

This holiday and winter I will continue to do my Wii Fit activities. Report
I don't stop exercising over the holidays. My mom and dad also walk so I will walk with them, plus they have an indoor pool so I can swim. No, no worries here. Report
Some of my swim practices will be canceled over the Christmas holidays because I train at a university and they close. My swim team also has a set workout schedule and with the busy season I may have to miss some due to family/holiday commitments. So on Dec 1 I'm purchasing a 3 month gym membership to my local community centre. It's my Christmas gift to myself so I can get into the gym when I can't get to the pool. Hopefully I won't suffer from too much de-training. I've worked hard for over 2 months to get into better shape. Report
I was surprised how easy it was to keep exercising over Thanksgiving even though I was out of town visiting family. My mom has an elliptical she's never used, but there's no reason I couldn't use it! (And I did!) I found out my aunt and uncle have a stationary bike, treadmill, and Wii Fit in their basement and I am welcome to use it whenever I'm home. Another relative also has a stationary bike as well. None of my relatives are in shape or fitness gurus and they still have all this! Point is, if you're out of town staying with relatives, ask if they have any equipment--you might be surprised! Report
I have fallen out of my exercise routine, not due to the holiday rush, but because I was getting physical activities in other ways. We are remodling our upstairs and I spent a couple hours a day for several days hanging insulation (up the ladder, down the ladder) and I was in my local theatre group's production of "Anything Goes" (tap dancing, running up and down the stairs back stage). Now that those things are over I've got to get back into my routine. I exercise early in the morning, so a hectic schedule shouldn't effect it too much. BUT I know I'll suffer during my first few workouts for the break. Report
I plan on working out over the holidays. The holidays are not about taking a holiday from working out. I work out 5 days a week on my treadmilll for 40 minutes. I know that it's good for me. I am also not taking a holiday from my nutrition either as I plan on eating right too. Report
I get up early to workout every morning before work. I always do it. I definatly will keep doing it through the holidays. Being active gives me so so many benifits that I am not willing to give up. Plus I'd like to lose a few more pounds before Xmas and I will have no guilt when I pig out at Xmas dinner. Report
Ugh... I hate de-training. I hurt my ankle in August and had to take a week off running, no way around it. I went from 8 minute miles to like 12... and I'm still struggling to get back there! Report
l am back into my exercise on my "boys " which l call my exercise machines l have at home have been to lenient with myself so back on today for 20 min
and found a beginners walk program from sparks that l will try 2 days a week and hope by feb will have some excess baggage off that l gained over an illness and well on my journey for june for the 179 mark

norma Report
I have been thinking about this potential problem since before Thanksgiving. I know with the holiday madness it's easy to blow off work out time because of the extra activities the season brings. But, I am going to everything I can, not to let that happen.
I work out in the morning, except on work days, and I plan on keeping that schedule. Report
My morning workout has become a habit, I don't think I would be able to break it. If something comes up to change it, I just walk in place while I watch TV. It's amazing how many calories you can burn during just one program. Report
I wish I had seen this two months ago, I had a very good workout routine and was doing very well, losing consistantly and increasing indurance and strength. In October I had major surgery and had to stay in bed for eight weeks, this is my last week, woo hoo! I cant wait to get back to the gym and my routine, but I know it will be difficult, it will be frustrating starting slow, per drs orders. Report
I was planning on just sticking to my schedule, but after reading this, I KNOW I will stick to it and maybe even try to get in MORE workouts!
I don't want to look like one of the New Year's resolution people huffing and puffing in January!
Great blog, as always!!!! Report
This is very true. For the last two holiday seasons, I have put my exercise routine on hold, and I kind of fell off the table once the new year came around. This time, I have changed everything up so not only do I plan on exercising throughout the holidays, I will also not gain weight this year due to the increase eating. Plus when I am working out often, I eat healthier. Report
Days I work: walk during lunch, use gym after...
Days I am home: raking leaves at present ;) With SO much to do, I am trying to get exercise w/ manual labor that needs to be done.
Days visiting relatives: lots of walking the dog.... helps keep me sane ;) Report
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