How Easy is it to “Get Out of Running Shape”?

It’s not a secret that I am not in peak running shape.  In fact, I am still a healthy and active person, but I’m not “in shape” right now either.  So, how easy is it to get out of running shape? One could argue being “in shape” is actually just a gray area.  Just like fast and slow, elite or not.  One person’s “in shape” is another person’s out.

How easy is to get out of running shape 

It takes a long time to lose running fitness. It actually takes longer to get out of running shape than you think.  You don’t lose fitness with a day or even a week off.  In fact, the benefits of rest far outweigh any small consequences. You could argue the benefits of taking 1…2..or 3 months off of training too.

This is the longest I have taken off from seriously running since 2011, and I’m okay with that.  To eventually run faster and feel great, you have to take time off. It doesn’t matter your fitness level.

So Back to the Question: How Easy is it to Get Out of Running Shape?

Something I learned a while ago is there are two “types” of running fitness:

  1. Aerobic fitness is essentially your endurance!
  2. Structural fitness is your body’s ability to withstand the impact of running. (Why you can’t go from not running to running 10 miles all of the time without an injury…)

Both are equally important for getting into running shape, but they are both different.

Get Out of Running Shape with Aerobic Fitness:

For most runners, it takes between 1-2 weeks of full rest (doing zero things) to lose aerobic fitness. Doing any cardio, whether it’s biking, elliptical, swimming…whatever will keep your aerobic fitness going.  It’s not as how easy is it to get out of running shape as you think. For some, it’s 14 days, and for others doing some cardio, it’s 21 days. Since I’ve been doing random things, I haven’t lost 100%.  To be realistic, I’ve probably lost about half.

There are many factors of how fast you get out of running shape and lose your aerobic fitness.  For instance, the longer you’ve been doing something, the longer it takes to lose that fitness.  Someone who ran for a month and stops loses running fitness much faster than someone who has been running for a decade.

It’s also important to note you can’t be in peak fitness forever, and you shouldn’t try too.  If you never take time off after a training program, your body will get hurt, and you’ll be forced to take time off, which leads us to structural fitness!

Get Out of Running Shape with Structural Fitness

We all know I’m injury-prone, so I care more about structural fitness.  You can regain your aerobic fitness with proper training and build up.  You cannot recover your body once you have permanently damaged it.  Structural fitness is what keeps your body healthy and injury-free.  It can take months to years to gain this type of fitness, but at the same token, it can take months to years to also lose it. It’s not easy to get out of running shape with structural fitness unless you take years off.

When you don’t use specific muscles, your body loses them.  (This isn’t limited to running.)  As many readers know, I swam for nearly 15 years before running.  If you asked me to swim now…well…LOL.

Even if you choose to stop running entirely, doing strength training or cross-training can keep those muscles stronger; even doing something a few times a week helps keep your muscle mass.  When returning to running, it’s important to watch and monitor your body.  Don’t go out for a long run your first week back. Focus on easy running for a while. Don’t jump into old training methods, and don’t expect your body to be as strong for the activities you were once doing.

Ease slowly into running to build strength and function in your muscles.  It can be difficult (yes, even for me!), but it keeps you more injury free and eventually improves your VO2 max.

Conclusion:

So, how easy is it to get out of running shape? It’s not. You don’t get out of running shape in a day or even a week. Fitness isn’t built in a day and you don’t get out of running shape in a day. Your fitness journey spans the course of your life, and it’s important not to get caught up in a single week, month, or even year.

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Questions for you:
How often do you take rest periods? Do you follow a training plan? 
How long does it take you to get out of running shape?