Establishing a training routine and well balanced nutritional intake will be the foundation for achieving the desired results for any individual, however, taking time off training is often seen as a step backwards. On the contrary taking time off any sort of demanding training routine should be seen as a step sideways with the thought of long term progression.

When it comes to taking time off, planning it strategically around life events or busy periods are great ways of creating balance, but what's the ideal time away from exercise?

The idea isn't to stop training completely for weeks or months as taking too long of a break starts to negatively reverse the goal of short break, as factors such as performance levels or muscle mass decrease with greater significance.

Muscle Memory

The term ‘muscle memory’ isn't a new concept and has been previously thought as individuals with a history of training acquiring force quicker after returning to training, and the long lasting effects have been attributed to motor learning in the central nervous system (6). However, it has now been suggested it goes deeper than just re learning the motor learning of a movement quicker, but the nuclei (the central and most important part of an object) of muscle fibres are protected during atrophy during the detraining stage (potentially up to 15 years). Therefore elevated numbers of nuclei that have been retained could be the reasoning behind the results of muscle memory (6,7).


The law of diminishing returns also applies to exercise at some point, as the amount of training sessions consistently performed will start to require the necessary recovery or the body simply can't adapt to the frequent stress of training. Without recovery being relatively optimised to a level were training consistently is feasible, we will inhibit our potential to perform and more importantly being overtrained and undercovered becomes apparent (7,8). Therefore if we are serious about training we should not be scared of overtraining but mindful of the obvious symptoms:

  • Decrease in performance.
  • Low energy. 
  • Unusually super difficult workouts.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Increased stress.
  • Agitation and moodiness.
  • Trouble sleeping. 
  • Nagging injuries from muscles and joints. 
  • Metabolic / Hormonal changes. 

Increased Motivation 

After a long haul of performing regularly in your training routine, motivation may start to take a hit which may be a good sign to take a break away from training (7). Taking time away from something can create the motivation to get back into what your missing and the importance of enjoyment towards maintaining long term effective exercise seems logical but it's also effective (9).


As we can see from the above information we shouldn't be scared of taking time off training completely but should rather relish it. If your training consistently then planning strategic breaks and prioritising other areas of your life is a great tool to promote longevity with your training.