Exercise: All or Nothing?
June 19, 2012 5:09 PM   Subscribe

How beneficial are inconsistent gym visits when your usual summer exercise routine is wrecked?

I travel a lot and like many, do best with things like exercise when it is part of my routine. But my routine goes out the window in the summer with travel, and I don't know how to deal with it.

So let's say I go away for the weekend with my partner, and don't exercise at all. Don't eat terribly, but not super healthy either. I get back and have three days before I leave for a work trip, during which I will not exercise at all. How beneficial is squeezing in two or three workouts during the few days I am home with access to my gym*?

I go back and forth between, "any exercise is better than no exercise", and "eh, how is two days going to make up for a week and a half away from the gym?".

Which is more true? All or nothing? Scientific explanations preferred but anecdotes gratefully accepted.

*I know in theory that I could and should hike after lunch, go for a run around the hotel ten times during my conference, do hotel-room twenty minute workouts or airport yoga, but trust me, it ain't gonna happen.
posted by stellaluna to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For me, the benefit of exercise is as much mental as physical. You get the mental benefit no matter how sporadic you exercise, and in fact, the less regular your workouts the larger the relative effect will feel. And I do think that running shoes and shorts are the only equipment one needs to bring on vacation. :)
posted by kcm at 5:18 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Some is better than none. Each day is a new opportunity, not a chance to 'make up for' the old days.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:30 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Working out during those days is absolutely beneficial. You'll provide stress to your body and it will adapt. If you don't keep a "perfect" workout schedule that's perfectly fine, perfect workout schedules are for people who have serious competitive aspirations and require strict programming to completely maximize their progress without overtraining.
posted by Anonymous at 5:55 PM on June 19, 2012

Do what you can, when you can. During the summer in St. Louis, we have weeks where the high temp is over 95, the humidity is ludicrous, and there is no wind. Running down the block makes you feel like you've got the vapors. So my running partner and I do not run above 90 in still air or 95 with a 5+mph wind. "Get it when you can", while not ideal, at least keeps you in shape for when things calm down/get cooler.

Last year I wound up having a three week gap in my 7.2 mile, 3 day/wk pattern - no running at all due to some upper-body injury, after a month or two of sporadic exercise due to heat. On the last day of that three-week gap, I ran out of gas in Kansas at 1am, and had to ru n9+ miles to get to the nearest station. I was able to just up and do it; if I'd not at least done the sporadic "OK it's not 95, let's fuckin' go" in the previous months I'd have been toast.
posted by notsnot at 6:56 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It depends. I personally find that I can make progress in some areas with frequency as little as once per week and a half, but not in others. Particularly, full-body/leg stuff like squats can progress with very low frequency, but not so much arms. If you can't go often, make sure you do productive movements (no 5-lb dumbbell swinging on a swiss ball) and work yourself hard enough that your body can make productive use of a significant part of the following break in the recovery process.

In any case, you are better off doing something than nothing.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2012

Agree with everyone else, you can at least maintain. And I wonder if you might actually make some progress if you focused on high-intensity intervals. Plus you'll keep up the habit and keep your mental association between being home and exercise. I tell myself the most important thing I need to do to keep up my exercise habit is to keep coming back. Skip the gym for three weeks? Fine, just keep coming back. Quit running for the summer? Ok, but try again when the weather's cooler. Enjoy your weekends to the hilt and do what you can during the week -- if that prevents burnout in the long run, go for it!
posted by k96sc01 at 8:06 PM on June 19, 2012

rather than say "eh, I'll start up again next week" until all of a sudden it's Halloween.

This, to me, is the real reason. Don't view exercise as paying off an indulgence debt -- it's too easy to get so far upside-down that it seems demotivatingly insurmountable. View it instead as a habit you want to foster because it is part of who you are, and because it will make you feel good.
posted by TonyRobots at 9:11 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two days may not make up for a week and a half away from the gym, but do you know what definitely won't? Nothing at all.
posted by cardioid at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great answers--and they all say the same thing :) Thanks for the positive reinforcement; I'll be returning to this thread on days when I need some extra motivation!
posted by stellaluna at 10:27 AM on June 20, 2012

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