October 22, 2021 3 min read

When you return to fitness, training or competition there’s a temptation to go full-blast right from the start. Almost without exception, this isn’t a good idea.


One of the principles of training is ‘reversibility’. In practice, this means that physiological and neurological adaptations that have taken place through training will begin to reverse, and the body will return to its pre-training state. You’ll lose strength, power, flexibility, endurance and your ability to recover quickly will be compromised.


Aside from the technical impacts of reversibility, there’s also increased injury risk. If you try to pick up your training intensities and volumes where you left off, without having worked your way back appropriately, you’ll be running the risk of significant injury.


Key Points:

  • What happens during a training and the subsequent lay-off
  • How long does it take for reversibility to kick in?
  • How do we return to training safely?
  • Re-up Recovery helps you return


When you return to fitness, training or competition there’s a temptation to go full-blast right from the start. Almost without exception, this isn’t a good idea. Follow these tips to ensure your return to sport is a pain-free one!


What Happens During a Training and the Subsequent Lay-off


Our tissues respond to stress by remodelling. Bones become thicker and stronger via a process known as Wolff’s Law. Our connective tissues become stronger and more viscous, leading to improved injury resistance and force production. Muscles adapt by producing more contractile units, making them stronger.


All of these changes are maintained as long as training frequency and intensity are kept in place. However, the reversal of these adaptations begins shortly after a reduction in training volume. Muscles will atrophy (shrink in size) and become weaker. Connective tissue changes will reverse, making the tendons weaker and less able to generate force and resist injury.


Take note of these facts before you rush back into high-intensity training and competition.


How Long Does it Take for Reversibility to Kick in?


There are no hard rules here and there are other factors at play (previous fitness level, age, gender etc), but there is credible evidence that amongst recreational and high-level runners deconditioning starts early, with significant physiological changes noted at both 4 and 8-week markers.


When it comes to strength, research shows that as little as 4 days of inactivity can lead to impaired muscle function, including a reduction in strength and power. This is particularly acute if you’re an older athlete, meaning you’ll lose strength and power more quickly and it will take longer to recover. It’s worth noting however that even young athletes will lose strength and power in the same amount of time.


It’s impossible to say with any degree of accuracy how long it takes for connective tissues to reverse because there’s a lot of factors at play. That being said, a review into tendon detraining studies explained…


‘cessation of activity causes modifications in tenocytes and tendons metabolism, morphology, i.e., in collagen type I and III syntheses, collagen organization, cellularity, vascularity, proteoglycan content, tear density, mechanical properties


How do we Return to Training Safely?


The important point, to begin with, is to understand where you’re starting back from. There are no hard and fast rules on how quickly your body reverses, so you’ll need to start gently and work up from there.


A suitable starting point would be a 50% reduction of the previous load and intensity. For example, if you were running 10km, start at 5km. Reduce the weights you were lifting in the gym by 50%. Reduce the distance you were cycling.


Starting at 50% of your volume and intensity allows for a significant reduction in your capacity. It also gives you a nice easy base from which you can re-establish technique, movement patterns, training efficiency and the like.


A significant amount of injuries following a return to injury come from technique issues, so you can help to prevent these with an easy start that will allow you to regain any technical proficiency you may have lost.


It may sound like an over-cautious approach to returning to training, but the alternative can be catastrophic. By rushing back too quickly you’re likely to risk injury that could keep you out of action for potentially months. It’s always better to take a pragmatic approach and ease your way back to full fitness and competitive abilities.


Re-up Recovery Helps you Return


By improving blood flow and enhancing tissue flexibility and mobility, Re-up Recovery's innovative natural formula will reduce the risk of injury to your connective tissues. Additionally, the enhanced recovery properties of the formula will ensure that your body will recover quicker and more thoroughly, allowing you to train again sooner.