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The Health Benefits From Taking a Break In Pilates

Updated on March 8, 2018
Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe has been practicing Pilates at her local gym for 3.5 years, and even at home during the winter season.

Give Your Body Plenty Time to Rest


Give Your Body Some Downtime

Everybody needs a break now and then from Pilates. It doesn’t hurt to take some downtime or try something different. For example, you can mess around with new sports, keep workouts short, or skip the gym altogether when you’re in the mood. If and when you feel like it, just exercise and do whatever you want to do. Taking days off is encouraged.

After every season, take a serious break to prevent cumulative fatigue caused by long-term training. If you return too soon, you won't recover from that built-up fatigue, and you’ll virtually guarantee a sub-standard performance later. There are many benefits from easing up and then setting aside our gym and sports routines precisely, so you could return stronger than ever.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

On the road, at the pool, or at the gym, you're not actually getting fitter. In hard workouts, you apply a stimulus that elevates our heart rate, breaks down muscles fibers, causes the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones adrenaline and Cortisol, and generally tells your body that the status quo won’t cut it anymore. The body gets to work repairing tissue damage, strengthening the heart and other muscles, restoring depleted fuel reserves and getting better at transporting oxygen through the body, making itself a little bit more efficient and stronger than before, while you eat and sleep. By stressing the body to stimulate change, and then letting it recover and adapt—by training carefully and modestly, you stack up these little adaptations one on top of the other, until you find yourself fit enough to resume your Pilates workouts. You don’t completely recover between workouts, when some of the fatigue stays with us, gradually accumulating during long periods of intense training dedicated to our favorite sport.

While two months of rest isn’t usually enough time to get you fully recovered to shed 100% of that fatigue, it’s suggested that you take it easy for at least two months, which is plenty for nonprofessionals. As for how long your break should be, it depends on how hard you’ve been working out. Taking a long break doesn’t mean getting overly friendly with the couch. Don’t consider lung-busting interval workouts, and most of all, stay away from your primary sport from Pilates. Steer clear from sports that have a training plan. Look for those sports that would keep you in similar shape, but it would give you a different mental focus. Or try those sports that will help build up some useful attributes in your main sport instead.

The Telltale Signs of When You Need a Break

Fatigue or physical exhaustion.

Soreness that won’t go away.

Dreading your workouts.

Poor performance.

Not able to progress in your workouts or feeling unmotivated or bored.

An injury or illness.

You can’t stand the thought of exercising.

When to Take a Break

You may reach a point where you’re tired, bored, or need a break. Or you may get sick, go on vacation, or some other life event takes you away from your workout routine. When you take that break, it just may be what you need to rest, recover and rejuvenate. Whether it’s a few days off or a full week, many serious exercisers and athletes regularly schedule a week off every 8-12 weeks. It takes more than a week to undo your hard work, so don’t be afraid of taking a break if you’re tired and sore.

Consider these factual tidbits. Aerobic power can decline about 5-10% in three weeks. To completely lose the gains you’ve made, it takes about two months of inactivity. During the first three weeks of inactivity before it tapers off, extremely fit exercisers will experience a rapid drop in fitness. Muscular strength and endurance last longer than aerobic fitness. For weeks or even months, muscle retains a memory of exercises. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many rest days to take or when to take them. Listen to your body for signs of over-training and to your mind for signs of boredom or exhaustion. That’s the key.

It’s important to ease into your workout, so you avoid injury and misery, if you do find you’ve taken a longer break than you really wanted. It won’t take very long for your body to get back to where it was before your break, when it might feel you’re starting over. No matter how long it’s been since you’ve worked out, getting back on track is always possible. So don’t give up.

Try Something New

With more energy and enthusiasm, taking a few days or a week off may be just what you need to get back to your workouts. Try different activities you usually don’t have time for, when this might be a perfect time. Try taking a long walk, try a yoga class, stretching, a long, easy bike ride, tossing a Frisbee or football, or leisurely working in the yard.

Why I Took a Break From the Gym

Toward the end of 2015, I took a six-month break from going to the gym from my water aerobics, Pilates, and yoga classes. Around the time my one-year membership lapsed by the expiration date, it happened before I took the winter months off. Due to my leukopenia, when my white blood cell count was abnormal, I rested and took time for myself. I also dealt with a cold and didn’t want to expose others. Back in spring 2016, I returned to water aerobics first since I fell and tripped on the sidewalk walking home on the way to church. I sprained both of my knees and elbows and then went to the gym part-time. After the swelling went down, that summer and fall, I went to Pilates and yoga class. I’ve passed on going to the Thursday yoga class first. Then I've decided not to go to my two Hydro Pilates classes too. I had went to the gym three days a week instead of five. What a difference it did make.

Though I had trouble with balancing poses like the tree pose and the planks, I’ve bounced back and gotten stronger on doing various yoga poses and with my Pilates routines. That’s what my instructors told me last year after class, even if I didn’t do any home practice. I’m glad I’ve rested when I did and took that break when I needed to.

Take It Slow

Whether at home or at the gym, here are some exercises you can do before you return to Pilates at the gym. This week, you should do this with the Pilates Ring. Warm up with the hundred on your backs and then on your stomachs, while having the Pilates ring in your hands. Turn and rotate them one way and then in the opposite direction. Do the single leg stretch, double leg stretch, criss-cross, and single leg stretch on the mat. Follow it up with the Planks and Side Planks on both sides, then roll like a ball, and then do two Swimming cycles. Continue with side sashay and reverse side sashay, bicycle and backpedal, the hot potato, and the double leg kick. Cool it down with the spinal twist, the Mermaid stretch, the Forward Fold, Cat-cow, Downward Dog, and the Pilates stance to finish the routine.

The Pilates ring has been used a lot during my Pilates class at the gym for the past 2.5 years. Next week, you should do the same routine without the ring to get into the swing of things. See how it feels!


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    • Kristen Howe profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Howe 

      20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Probably. I'll work on it some more this summer.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      20 months ago from UK

      Everything in moderation is probably the key.

    • Kristen Howe profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Howe 

      20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      I think maybe it does a little bit. And it sure could help you feel better to go a long way.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      20 months ago from UK

      Interesting to read of benefits from taking a break from exercise. Not sure if this counts, but I decided to skip my 30 minute morning work out today. On the plus side, I was able to pack more into the morning and be less stressed by time pressures.

    • Kristen Howe profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks Flourish. It's time to get my flu shot soon.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      I hope you feel better soon.


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