My holiday season this year has been insane, bringing all kinds of fun (and less fun) surprises that have wreaked havoc with our daily schedule. Two direct results of this upheaval are that my kids have eaten a lot of frozen pizza and I’ve missed a lot of kickboxing and taekwondo classes.
The pizza thing is pretty bad, but I know it’ll even out after Christmas. The exercise thing, though, was beginning to be a serious problem. I could feel the creeping ennui that accompanies being sedentary, so I made getting back to class an absolute priority last week. I rolled into class Monday morning and my girls expressed shock that I was still alive, but it was nothing compared to the shock I was about to feel.
Oh, y’all. I had no idea that a couple weeks could do such damage, but it was rough. It was one of the hardest workouts I’ve had in ages, and the worst part was that I could tell it wasn’t actually that hard. I had just totally lost my capacity for exercise.
I was so sore on Tuesday that I had a hard time walking up stairs, and let’s not even discuss the agony of sitting down on the toilet. Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have blinked at 100 squats in the midst of a kickboxing class. This week, I’m literally wincing. For the first time in months I found myself needing to take breaks, which was extra awful because I was right smack dab at the front of the class.
Apparently that’s pretty common. This Livestrong article explains that cardiovascular fitness starts to decline after a week of inactivity, with flexibility and strength following suit after two weeks. And that’s just the tip of the horrible iceberg… in fact, it takes three weeks to gain back one week off. But the good news is that maintaining fitness levels in the midst of schedule disruption is actually fairly simple and very doable.
If you’re planning to take time off from your workout routine, keep in mind that staying in shape isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, you can maintain your fitness levels in a surprisingly small amount of time, says Dr. Brad Thomas. “In order to maintain both aerobic and strength levels, you need just 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) twice a week.” Thomas cautions that the work effort must be truly high-intensity, at between 80 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
I’ll be honest, it feels daunting to know that I’ve got a long road to get back to where I was. But it’s good to know that in the future, maintaining my fitness level is something I’ll be able to do even when things get crazy.
In fact, I’m going to make that my New Year’s Resolution. This year, I will not allow circumstances to prevent me from staying healthy and happy. No matter what life brings, I can always carve out 40 minutes a week — and failing that, I can challenge my kids to an epic game of backyard tag where I’m always it.
If that’s not a truly high-intensity workout, I don’t know what is.
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