If you've gotten off track with your exercise routine, it may be easier than you think to quickly get back in shape.
Weight loss scale
Credit: Lee Harrelson

If you haven't gone to the gym in weeks or if sickness has gotten you off track, there's no need to worry. In fact, according to Health.com survey, about 60% of its readers believe they are out of shape after only 1 or 2 weeks without exercise. The good news is that fitness does not disappear as fast you might think, or feel, according to exercise physiologists.

With NO workouts for two weeks, you will see a slight decrease in fitness (more if you are new to exercise, less if you are more experienced) but you will regain what you have lost in only 2 to 4 weeks after you get active again. That's much faster than if you were starting from scratch.

With NO workouts for five weeks, your fitness level does drop by half. But don’t get discouraged and give up. Just plan to start back slowly with less intensity than where you left off. For example, if you were running 3 miles, cut back to 1.5 or 2 miles for the first couple of sessions and see how you feel. If you’ve been lifting 30 pounds on the weight machines, cut back to 15 to 20.

Try this plan to get you back to where you want to be:

  1. Two aerobic workouts each week will preserve your current level of aerobic fitness, as long as you keep the quality of the workout high (versus the length of time working out).
  2. One strength training session per week will maintain your current muscle power. This is good news to when a busy schedule or unexpected interruption keeps you out of your walking shoes or the gym class.

The most important thing to remember is to be patient, and set realistic, but progressive, goals each week. You will be back on track again in less time than when you first started.

Tammy Beasley, RD, CSSD, CEDRD is a registered, licensed dietitian, spinning instructor, and certified specialist in sports nutrition and eating disorders. She is the author of Rev It Up-The Lifestyle Diet That Puts You In The Driver's Seat.