Detraining & Loss of Fitness

It is very natural that you might be worrying about losing your hard earned fitness during this period where you can not train in your normal way. I have been doing some specific research on this subject and found a great lecture by the Canadian Sport Institute. I have used some of their slides to provide context. The good news is that detraining and loss of fitness does not happen overnight. Training residuals refer to how much fitness remains after a certain time from the cessation of training. The length in time of these residuals depends on what elements of your fitness you are looking at. Anaerobic and glycolytic abilities are lost more quickly than aerobic abilities. This should come as no surprise. Your specific training history has an effect on how long your training residuals are, with a longer training history leading to longer residuals. High load before cessation of training also contributes to longer residuals. Given you have been training hard all winter you are well prepared physiologically to maintain a good level of aerobic fitness. The question you are probably most interested in is: "What is the minimal required training to maintain adaptions?" The good news is that the answer is 'Less than you think' The screenshot from the lecture shows the length of training residuals for key aspects of fitness.
Residual training effects in cycling

As you can see aerobic endurance has the longest residual with maximal speed having the shortest. As cyclists, the aspect of fitness than is a foundation for everything else is strength or muscular endurance. As you can see the residual training effects do not last longer than about 15 days following a cessation of training. Our focus for the next block of training for all of you will be maintaining this key element of your fitness. How much work do you need to do to maintain a good level of fitness? In a study of 14 world class kayakers the group were split into two groups of 7 after the completion of a World Championships when they were in peak form. 7 athletes did a total cessation (TC) of training and 7 did a reduced training (RT) plan consisting of one strength session per week and 2 x 40 minute moderate intensity aerobic training sessions per week. After 3 weeks the TC group had a reduced VO2Max of 11.3% whilst the RT group had declined only 5.6%. This is a tiny decline especially if you consider that these elite athletes were doing 16-18 training sessions per week leading up to the WC's. With strength the differences were equally large with the TC group losing around 8-9% of 1 rep max, with the RT group losing only 3-4% despite only doing one strength session a week doing 3 sets of 10 reps at 70-75% of their 1RM.

Detraining residuals in athletes

We also have looked at health and the lowering of the immune system. The clinical evidence suggests that overly long training sessions are the biggest contributor to lowering immune system health. Training can and should be regular and frequent depending on your training history. In addition you should sleep for 7+ hrs a night and maintain a calorie balance, eating enough protein and carbohydrate. Do not go into chronic calorie deficit.I hope that this provides you with some context, comfort and colour on what is going on with your training and why we can back off intensity and volume right now and still keep you very fit. Remember that top end power and speed can be developed very quickly in 3-5 weeks. In highly training endurance athletes aerobic fitness can be rebuilt very quickly, in just a few weeks of longer aerobic rides. Your next block of training will reflect our focus on muscular endurance and strength. We will be focused on maintaining your muscular endurance with shorter but more frequent workouts coupled with one strength session per week at home. As ever you know where Sue and I are for a call at any time. We are here to support and guide you through this difficult period. Above all, do not stress about your fitness. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy! Rob Wakefield / Founder & Coach / 07779136840 Propello