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Old 03-17-09, 08:33 PM   #1
Mojo Slim
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Fitness Lost

I think this has been discussed before but . . .

How much fitness is lost per week of non-riding? I have seen estimates between 2 and 30% a week.

I recently was unable to ride for a week because of a sore throat that was the worst I have ever had. I seldom get sick and I have just powered through sore throats in the past. The doctor said it looked like strep, but the test said it wasn't. The five days of antibiotics may or may not of helped. I couldn't eat or drink and lost 8 pounds in 7 days. I lived on a bit of water and yogurt.

Exactly one week later, I was feeling better, ate some actual food and went for a bike ride the next morning. I rode with a "slower" group for 25 flat miles. Mind you, my usual rides are 40-60 hilly miles. I was totally out of it. In this group is a great guy, probably late 60s, who suffers from Parkinson's. Normally, he rides at the back of this pack, but about 8 months ago he fell/crashed 3 times on one ride and fractured some bones (and then rode home). He has been off the bike until about a month ago and now trails just barely in sight of the group. HE BEAT ME HOME!

I have been off the bike for a week before, with no major ill effects. But in that time I have at least continued to eat. This has scared me a bit. May 31st I leave on a 7-day, 560 mile ride and suddenly I feel like I am starting from scratch.

My apolgies to Blues Dawg and others on this forum, who are going through medical matters that make my stupid sore throat well, stupid. And I will ride again tomorrow after a couple days of regular eating. But I am interested in any knowledge this group has on lost/gaining fitness, the role of eating/nutrition in the slightly-more-than-recreational rider, etc.

Thanks for listening.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:45 PM   #2
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When I'm off the bike for several days due to illness, those first couple of days back can feel like I'm starting over. It sounds like you really got whacked by a bug. Follow your doctors advice and give yourself some time. You'll be back to your old self.
I've never been one for "quantifying" fitness other than my own empirical observations. If you're still feeling noticeably weaker after a few weeks, I'd let the doc know.
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Old 03-17-09, 09:06 PM   #3
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This happened to me last summer. It only took five or six rides to be back to riding conditioin. I was so sick I lost 10 pounds and wondered if I couild get well. The first two rides were horrible. Then I climbed back to condition very quickly.
The problem is that everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you, but I doubt it will take long.
Good riding and Good luck.
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Old 03-17-09, 09:13 PM   #4
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I used to know the rate that muscle mass is lost when a human is kept at bedrest for a week, and also when not fed (was involved in some research looking at possible benefits of passive activity in the critically ill). Sorry to say that I can't cite the exact number right now but it is surprising--4-7 percent just for bedrest alone, I believe. You might be able to find it if you search--lots of medical literature on the subject. Logically, it's worse in the presence of a protein/calorie deficit. However, strength is regained fairly quickly too, and activity helps with that--so don't be too alarmed. You were not just off the bike, you were at metabolic stress and starving (as evidence by your weight loss).

I once lost weight rapidly in a very similar situation, and was able to return to my normal level of exercise within 2-3 weeks of recovery. I didn't miss the weight, it was excess, but unfortunately, over the next 8 months I put the weight back on.
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Old 03-17-09, 10:28 PM   #5
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there have been studies on loss of fitness over time. some specifically oriented to cycling. I don;t think I have any of that paper anymore, but I do seem to remember that any significant fitness loss wasn;t measured until about 15 days off. At 21 days the loss was very measurable.
One thing all the studies seem to confirm was that fitness loss, early on, wasn't linear, and that time off of even 10 days wasn't significant.
I know that if I take 4 or 5 days off, when I get back on, I notice a marked difference in muscle 'work', but usually by the end of that 1st or 2nd day back, this also disappears.
Remember that even though infections may seem localized, like throat infections, these often move out and affect the system in general. You may feel 'recovered' from the sore throat, but still feeling the effects in your system. That would be my guess for the malaise of your return.
I always like to keep some effort up during 'illness', but I try to make sure I don;t even come close to stressing my self out physically until I feel certain I'm 'recovered'. Better to take it easy for a few days than to relapse into a more serious period of illness.
So what if you're one of the last guys back in at ride end? Who cares? You're paycheck any smaller?
Often these brief interludes bring new perspectives and envigorate you to new appreciations while riding.
And sometimes you just feel crappy for a few days...

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Old 03-18-09, 03:13 AM   #6
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I just took four days off because of rain (and I'm a wuss.) I went for a 35 mile ride last night on a not particularly hilly route. Aerobically there was no drop-off, but it was surprising how I'm feeling it in my leg muscles this morning. I feel like I'm starting all over, although I'm sure it's not true.
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Old 03-18-09, 06:00 AM   #7
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I have often thought that it takes 2X as much time to recover as one takes off.

Take off for 3 days, it takes 6 days to get back to full form.
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Old 03-18-09, 06:24 AM   #8
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One thing to consider is that riders in training programs will program 1 week off the bike with complete rest several times a year. That allows the body time to heal and recover. Your time off was spent recovering from your illness and posssibly the "beatdown" from hard riding. Keep your first couple rides on the easy side and you will feel the strength coming back as you ride.
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Old 03-18-09, 06:28 AM   #9
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I don't think you lost that much fitness in one week. You may have come back too soon, some of the weakness from your illness probably lingered. It is not unusual to feel weak or out of it on the first day or two back. Take a day off between rides, pack in some protein and stay hydrated and you will be fine for the long ride you plan.
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Old 03-18-09, 07:13 AM   #10
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I think for regular athletes like us we are so tuned in to our bodies that we feel these fluctuations more so than the average personal who only exercises occasionally. I missed a week of weight training and I felt it even though I was not sick for a week. I think it's a good sign that you noticed some drop off, especially considering what you said you were eating. I would suggest a different course of nutrition though - I mean yogurt with antibiotics ...? Most people don't realize what antibiotics do the their stomach, then add to that meals of dairy products ... bad plan my friend. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of yogurt. Ever have kids? Ever hear about the BRAT diet? Bananas Rice Apples & Toast. Stay away from dairy and fruit and your stomach will endure the illness. Consume protein in real food like meat eggs & fish so as not to lose muscle weight. When you're ill you need to escalate your metabolism and immune system. Bad diet and weight loss are counter productive. When me or my kids have a sore throat - even strep - or worse - scarlet fever - I make sure everyone gargles with salt water, the osmosis of salt from an area of greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration through your throat tissue will bring the H2O with it and hydrate the sore throat. Do it 3 times a day. The warm water will enhance the physical process. Boost your immune system with products like "Airborne" and vitamins and other supplements, like Vitamin C & Euchinacea. Boost your metabolism by staying active (OK to cut back on exercise regime) and you should know the key to your metabolism is your mouth - you have to eat many small meals throughout your day. When you don't eat, your metabolism shuts down. When you eat it gets fired up. That's why we have to eat to lose weight when we exercise. A fat person who doesn't eat and exercises just burns up their muscle tissue. With respect I think your problem was that you didn't take proper care of yourself. I hope you don't think I was harsh. Good luck rebounding!
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Old 03-18-09, 07:18 AM   #11
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I don't think you lost that much fitness in one week. You may have come back too soon, some of the weakness from your illness probably lingered. It is not unusual to feel weak or out of it on the first day or two back. Take a day off between rides, pack in some protein and stay hydrated and you will be fine for the long ride you plan.
+1 You were probably looking at the weakening effects of a virus.
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Old 03-18-09, 07:22 AM   #12
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I didn't ride for 6 weeks because I had surgery to my foot. It feels like I'm starting from scratch again.
I read a while ago that it takes about 2 months to lose everything you worked so hard to get.
Just think of the people that don't workout or ride at all.
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Old 03-18-09, 10:55 AM   #13
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In the book "Armstrong's War", there was a discussion of Ulrich getting sick and refusing to take antibiotics. It was said that antibiotics reduce power by 10% - that is a lot to lose. In addition, you were sick and off the bike for a week. I am not surprised that you felt lousy riding.

I suspect you will be back once the effect of the antibiotics are gone and you are fully recovered from being sick. I do not think a week off the bike will affect your event in May. Good luck.
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Old 03-18-09, 10:57 AM   #14
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When winter hits, I sometimes take a month off before I hit the stationary bike for the winter season. No big deal. Yes, I have to ramp back up, but it really doesn't take that long to do it. I think it's actually good to give the muscles a break once in a while. By peak summer I'm riding centuries again.
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Old 03-18-09, 03:31 PM   #15
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Thanks for all the thoughts. The general encouraging tone and today's ride have made me feel better. I rode with 4 folks who were going to do 30 miles. I knew it would be at a more relaxed pace than my usual. I felt much better. Certainly not 100%, but I was able to bust up a coupld of short hills and felt good at the end. I will continue to take it easy for a couple more rides, but I think all will be OK.
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Old 03-18-09, 03:34 PM   #16
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I think for regular athletes like us we are so tuned in to our bodies that we feel these fluctuations more so than the average personal who only exercises occasionally. I missed a week of weight training and I felt it even though I was not sick for a week. I think it's a good sign that you noticed some drop off, especially considering what you said you were eating. I would suggest a different course of nutrition though - I mean yogurt with antibiotics ...? Most people don't realize what antibiotics do the their stomach, then add to that meals of dairy products ... bad plan my friend. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of yogurt. Ever have kids? Ever hear about the BRAT diet? Bananas Rice Apples & Toast. Stay away from dairy and fruit and your stomach will endure the illness. Consume protein in real food like meat eggs & fish so as not to lose muscle weight. When you're ill you need to escalate your metabolism and immune system. Bad diet and weight loss are counter productive. When me or my kids have a sore throat - even strep - or worse - scarlet fever - I make sure everyone gargles with salt water, the osmosis of salt from an area of greater concentration to an area of lesser concentration through your throat tissue will bring the H2O with it and hydrate the sore throat. Do it 3 times a day. The warm water will enhance the physical process. Boost your immune system with products like "Airborne" and vitamins and other supplements, like Vitamin C & Euchinacea. Boost your metabolism by staying active (OK to cut back on exercise regime) and you should know the key to your metabolism is your mouth - you have to eat many small meals throughout your day. When you don't eat, your metabolism shuts down. When you eat it gets fired up. That's why we have to eat to lose weight when we exercise. A fat person who doesn't eat and exercises just burns up their muscle tissue. With respect I think your problem was that you didn't take proper care of yourself. I hope you don't think I was harsh. Good luck rebounding!

Thanks for this lesson. It will help me, if there is a next time. Unfortunately, yogurt was about all I could get down. And even it stung like a son-of-a-gun. I gargled a bit, but not enough, I think. I wish the nurse practioner I saw had emphasized this more.
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Old 03-18-09, 03:56 PM   #17
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loseing it

HI SLIM your slimness [if thats true and the bug seem to have taken you down more than the usual.[Keep us posted here's hopeing your bug is done with you. IF your strenth doesnt spike, your sore thoat might be a sympton and real slow recovery will be the rule.but fitness I think is from childhood and the older you are the harder it is to stay on the biker's edge that we all strive for./Kenneth
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