Sometimes, you just fall off the wagon or you get an injury that forces you to take a break from working out for a few weeks or a few months. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. But almost everyone will worry about what they’ll lose by taking time off–whether it’s conditioning, weight gain, muscle loss, etc. It just takes some work, persistence, and time to start feeling like you’re “back” again.
Is there a set amount of time it takes to get back into shape? No, of course not. It’s a vague question that depends on a lot of factors–like how long of a break you took, how long you worked out before the break, the frequency of your workouts, what exercises are you doing, what are you eating, and what do you consider as “back in shape”? etc.
While there are a lot of factors that play into how long it takes to “get back into shape,” people generally notice changes about 6-8 weeks into working out most days of the week. Most folks also don’t see changes first; rather, they feel changes before they see them. But I promise you this–if you stick to it and work out smart, you will see progress. Just be patient.
By the way, if you’re a complete beginner to exercise, you might actually see progress a bit faster than someone who’s taken a long hiatus since it requires a little less exercise to challenge your body (which isn’t’ a bad thing!).
I would say about month 3 or 4 of consistent exercise is where you can really start to feel like you’ve really “caught up” and have a certain level of fitness foundation under your belt. But again, this all depends on what you’re doing–exercising consistently, eating right, recovering smart, etc.
For example, if you were lifting weights before and are going back into it after 2 months off, it might take you 4 months to lift your previous weights again. And if you’re a runner, studies have shown that 2 months off would decrease your VO2 max (your body’s maximum ability to use oxygen during a workout) level by 20%. According to experts, it takes about 2 weeks for every week that you take off. [But of course, people who’ve been running for longer will bounce back quicker, so all of this is ballpark.]
In my opinion, the most important takeaway is this: You won’t see results right away. The key is consistency and patience. Stick to your exercises, set a schedule and goals, eat and sleep right, and don’t be discouraged when you don’t see results as quickly as you would like. It takes time. But start working now. This is why our motto is “Tomorrow is made today.” The work that you do today will yield results in the future.