How long does it take to get out of shape?

Take a championship triathlete and force them to stop training altogether, how long would it take for them to be no more fit than an average schmo?

And a related question, would said has-been be able to return to championship form faster than an average schmo would be able to climb to the pinnacle of the sport (ignoring inherent motivational, skill, and training knowledge differences between the ex-athlete and the novice)?

I think its dependant upon the metabolism of the has-been. If the triathlete just up and decided one day after working out to start consuming a keg of beer and case of snicker bars everyday instead of going to gym, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take very long for the muscles to atrophy and be replaced by fat.


Well I’m not sure how long it would take to return to “average schmoe” status. But according to my exercise physiology textbook, it takes only two weeks of inactivity before a trained athlete has “lost it”.

A professor of mine used the shorthand of 6 weeks to get into shape. Only two weeks to get out of shape. So don’t get out of shape.

At one time in my life, I was teaching Karate 4 days a week, taking my own classes 7 times a week, and running 5 miles a day. I was in as good a shape as any professional athlete.

If I missed even a week for a holiday, I was always off my speed quite a bit for probably a week after that. If I missed a couple of weeks, it seriously put me back.

I got busy in University at one time, and had to quit working out for a couple of months. When I came back, I had pretty much lost at least 50% of my stamina, and it took me weeks of heavy exercise to get back in shape.

When I finally stopped killing myself with 6 hours of heavy exercise a day, I became a bit of a slug. I moved away from my home city, and never did continue Karate training seriously. After a year of that, I tried to start running again, and I was literally back to square one, with my endurance being down to a mile or less. And I couldn’t even get through my karate katas once without being exhausted, whereas in the old days I could do them continuously for hours on end.

For another example, look at the length of training camps for professional athletes. Hockey players get about two or three months off in the summer, and most of them stay relatively physically active during those months, and yet they have to go through weeks of endurance training before the start of the season to get ‘up to speed’.

It takes a LONG time to get into olympic-class shape, and a very short time to lose it.

Runner here. It takes no time at all to get out of shape. Say… 2 weeks to notice a difference. If I do not run for 2 weeks, then go and run my legs get sore. I run a mile in 6min 45ish seconds. go two weeks and that will go up to around 8 min…

Well, everybody has been saying two weeks. But it’s not a demarcation at two weeks. It’s a gradual thing. I read once the graduating scale, but I don’t remember the exacts. I’ll look for it later, if it’s on the web. However, a couple of days you are not going to lose anything. After that, it’s a gradual loss.

Once you get detrained, however, it will not take you as long as somebody who has been sedentary all his life to get back into shape. If you’ve been off for two weeks, or even five weeks, it won’t take long at all.

The minute you say “I DO” or sign a mortgage.

Personal anecdote.

I was on the recieveing end of a very nasty kick once that saw me unable to run for 3 months (I normally run about 8km every weekday). After I was back in condition first time out I had no trouble covering the distance and had lost only about 1 minute off my time (not really significant since my times vary considerably any way).

So from this limited experience I’d have to say that any suggestion that a professional athlete will be reduced to the level of an average schmo in two weeks is absolute bollocks. His fitness may be reduced in two weeks, but there’s no way in hell that an Olympic marathon gold medalist going two weeks without any excercise is suddenly going to find himself unable to run 3 kilometres, which is in my experience about the limit of the average schmo in his twenties.