What happens when you stop riding a bike, how long does it take to lose shape

Training 02/01/24 14:00 Migue A.

During holiday seasons, it's not uncommon to have several days away from the bike. But that doesn't mean you're going to lose your current fitness level overnight, we'll explain it here.

The residual effect: how many days can I lose physical fitness

The residual effect is known as the range or margin of time a cyclist takes to lose physical fitness from when they stop training or exercising. This residual effect is different for the different abilities of the cyclist: this means that you don't take the same time to lose the sprint as to lose endurance. But, how many days will it take you to lose the physical fitness of each of your variables? Well, we summarize them in 4 points:

  • The first thing you're going to lose is the ability to sprint. That is, the physical ability you have to go at maximum speed for a certain time, at least for a few minutes. This ability is one of the most complex to prepare, but it can evaporate in a few days, specifically between 3 days and a week

  • Secondly, in a descending scale of loss of physical fitness would be muscle strength. We refer to the progressive reduction of muscle mass that occurs when you stop riding a bicycle or mountain bike. Well, you will start to reduce your muscle around the week and, although this process is somewhat slower, between one week and three weeks (that is, between 7 and 21 days approximately) you will have reduced 15% your muscle mass. It is an approximate average value, different studies talk about a little more or a little less, but all confirm that in that period you will start to lose and that loss will not stop if you continue with sedentary lifestyle.

  • The anaerobic capacity (we have already talked about the anaerobic threshold and how to train it) is the third in discord. Remember that anaerobic means that stretch of bike you do above your optimal oxygen capabilities, that is, with some lack of oxygen due to effort. That threshold is basic when it comes to going a step further in your training results. Losing physical fitness and the anaerobic threshold, with it, is tragic, because it is your background when a port appears. Well, this threshold usually goes to waste at the approximate level of muscle mass. It takes a little longer, about 5 or 6 more days, but if you spend a month without training it forget about any anaerobic threshold, you will have to start almost from scratch.

  • Finally, there is aerobic endurance. This, obviously is the last to disappear when losing physical fitness. It's curious because it's the fastest to increase and the slowest to decrease. Basically, it is our physical background in good oxygen conditions, so it is also more difficult to measure. However, it also gets lost, as is obvious, before prolonged stops: experts have estimated that from 5 weeks, about 35-40 days, your aerobic endurance will already be on the ground.

It is true that elite cyclists detrain, that is, they make periods of stop. But they are small periods and very planned, in order to improve health and physical and mental recovery. But, even in those periods, they are not stopped, but they do other softer and stress-free activities.

When we usually lose physical fitness

Well, it's clear that to lose physical fitness, in all its variants, almost a month in the dry dock is enough. And there are circumstances in which this occurs more often, some by own decision, others by external circumstances.

  • Injuries are usually the main factor for losing physical fitness that do not entirely depend on us. You can train well to try to avoid injuries, but if an injury appears and you have to stop, the form goes with it hand in hand. It is the most painful circumstance for cyclists, in all its meanings.

  • But there are also stops in which non-professional cyclists usually fall recurrently: holiday periods, highlighting summer and Christmas. They are two stages in which they usually stop and eat in an unhealthy way. This is paid dearly later on the bicycle or mountain bike.

You already know the days it takes to lose physical fitness, so if you have a training plan that avoids these stops, you will do better.



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