Why Missing a Lift Day Isn’t the Big Deal You Think It Is

You'll get 'em tomorrow. Or three weeks from now.

A tired lady sitting down in the gym.
You won't fall out of shape overnight — especially if you've been training consistently.
Getty Images/Image Source

Unsurprisingly, some CrossFit gyms have a track record of handing out “attendance awards.” At most outposts, taking home the hardware would require showing up to 20 or so classes over the course of a month.

Impressive? Definitely. Sticking to a fitness routine is notoriously difficult, and it makes sense that trainers want to celebrate consistency when they see it. But similar to run streaks — an example of the pernicious “overtraining syndrome” that runs rampant in the endurance community — knocking out that many WODs over the course of a month might not be the best idea.

Working out regularly breeds progress, but working out constantly can lead to plateaus…not to mention mental burnout or injury.

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Which is why it’s so important to remember that it takes three weeks — on average — for you to lose muscle after time off from the gym. When sports medicine researchers set out to determine that answer, they discovered that “training frequencies of two to four resistance training sessions per muscle group/week” were ideal.

Any period in which you’re not working out falls under the somewhat-funny term of “detraining.” Examples of detraining: going on vacation, a heavy workweek, too many engagements with the kids. It’s natural to miss a week or even two of training, and fortunately for your triceps, it’s also okay. “Decay rates” don’t kick in until you’ve strung together three weeks of strength training.

One thing to take to the bank — atrophy accelerates from week five onward, making it that much harder to earn back your gains from the month(s) prior.

Some find that the only way they can get into fitness is if they reframe their entire lives around it. Lifting (or running, or cycling) becomes a priority akin to family or career. While we wholeheartedly endorse wellness as a lifestyle, take care that any sustainable lifestyle requires balance.

If three weeks off isn’t enough to sink your strength, then you can certainly take one day off. Setting a new weight record is more gratifying than an attendance award, anyway.

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