min read
February 19, 2024

Illness and Fitness: Why It's Ok to Take a Couple Weeks Off

Getting back to working out after being sick is always tremendously difficult. With the flu going around, COVID lingering, and weird stomach bugs occurring, it’s hard to avoid getting sick. 

Getting sick usually means taking some time off from the gym. If it’s just out of courtesy to avoid getting anyone else sick, or your body simply can’t handle it, taking a break from the gym sucks! Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just someone generally trying to be consistent in the gym and be healthy, it’s a bummer to take an extended period off. You’ve made gains, you feel fit, and then you become fearful you’ll lose it all! 

Here are some timelines that might help ease some of that anxiety: 

  • VO2 max/aerobic fitness gains made in the last two months before a break are completely lost after one month of inactivity. However, it still takes two whole weeks before a noticeable impact is made on your performance! 

  • If you are sick and completely immobilized, muscle strength can decrease by 50 percent in three weeks. For athletes or people who have been exercising for a long time, general strength doesn't change much even after a two-week hiatus. Most athletes don’t see a difference until after 4 or even 6 weeks. 

So while the first few days back in the gym may feel like you’re sucking wind, it’s just your body getting readapted to the stress it gets put under when you work out. Working out, after all, is a form of stress.

If you have to take 1-2 weeks off from working out because you’re sick, try to focus on getting enough protein and carbs in what you usually do. This will help maintain as much muscle as possible. Then, ease into it the first few days back at the gym, and be prepared to consume a lot of water and electrolytes!

As per usual, sleep is king. If you’re not getting 8+ hours while sick and the days following, you’re doing yourself a disservice. 

Take your time and the gains will come back!