T Nation

Don't Let This Happen to You

I told this story to an acquaintance from the gym when he told me I looked like shit. He said holy shit dude, you could write a book about that. I’ll preface this with the punch line: Staying away from the gym is bad for you.

A while ago I unintentionally ignited a firestorm of flames when I asked the simple question what happens to others after a week or so away from the gym. The question was about metabolism, and how quickly the appetite diminishes when the exertion of regular workouts stops abruptly, and whether the time off causes others to gain, lose or maintain weight. I quickly lose both appetite and weight, but not strength.

I got flamed by folks here who said there was never a reason to take a week off, despite the fact that I prefaced the question with sometimes work, travel or other demands forces me to take time off.

I recently spent 5 miserable weeks in Europe on company business. It was sheer hell. First off, there was no gym at the hotel. It had a fitness centre which consisted of a swimming pool and a sauna. I decided to look for a different hotel, but since the Paris Auto Show was in town, all the hotels were fully booked. I got so F’ing tired of hearing the words fully booked I could puke. After a week the hotel with the fitness centre forced me to check out so they could give my room to a more frequent guest. French hospitality.

Then I got sick. Started with a sore throat, turned into a nasty sinus infection, fever, and made its way into my lungs. As this mysterious ailment began wreaking havoc on my body, I had to keep changing hotels every couple days due to the fucking auto show, followed by a fucking food show, and a fucking fashion show. I was working 12 hour days in order to meet the objectives of my trip.

I had to go to Italy for two nights and two days. I asked a French colleague if she could get me an appointment with a doctor before I left. She would not give me antibiotics. She believed it was viral, even though she did not take my temperature. She gave me something to spray in my nose, something else to spray in my mouth, and cough syrup. The French medicaments did nothing for me.

I thought I was going to die in Italy. Despite the fact that an American colleague who was there for a week told me the hotel had a great gym, I was so feverish, working out was out of the question. I had to take a cold shower in the middle of the night. Without aspirin or Tylenol to reduce the fever, I really thought I would die there.

Back in France, I had to continue changing hotels before I finally landed a place where I was able to stay the last two weeks of the trip. It was an old castle. Castles don’t have gyms. They also don’t have heat. Or hot water each morning. That’s ok, I still had 12 hour workdays to warm me up. I ran out of Metabolic Drive about 3 weeks into the trip. Took 2 buckets with me.

The only redeeming part of the trip was the last weekend. I drove to Normandy and stood on Omaha beach. It was a beautiful place to have such a terrible history. I coughed all the way there and back.

The day I left France I was so happy. I looked forward to going to my doctor to get some proper medications, and getting back into they gym.

After leaving Paris, my 1 1/2 hour layover in Dublin stretched into 4 1/2 hours. Why not prolong the agony. 8 hours after leaving Dublin, we landed in Chicago. I think I shed tears of joy. I fell asleep in the back of the limo, not wearing my seatbelt.

5 minutes from home I was awakened by a nasty collision with the inside of the drivers side of the limo. The Town Car collided with another vehicle at an intersection. Neither driver even braked. They just drove right into each other at 30-35 mph.

Fortunately there were no serious injuries. I hope. Somehow I hit the left inside of the car with my right side. We were hit left front, I must have done a barrel roll or somersault to hit the left side of the car with my right side. I jammed my right thumb and bruised my right knee. I also have some pain in my neck which the doctor said should get an MRI if it does not subside within a week. He recommended I not lift until the neck pain is gone. It’s now been a week. It hasn’t completely subsided, but neither has my cough. I’ll get the MRI next week.

The toll the last 6 weeks has taken on my body has been pretty dramatic. My pants are tight and my shirts are loose. I had gotten into decent shape since my last overseas trip, so 5 months of workouts and a solid diet, without a break of more than two days. I took some photos when I got to France and discovered there was no gym. I took some photos today. I estimate I have lost a good 10 lbs lean mass and gained 3-5 lbs of fat. That’s a lot on a guy my size.

The battle for recovery begins now.

cough, cough, cough


If it wasn’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all.

You need to learn how to make the best of a bad situation with a little imagination.

When you’re travelling, you can still workout without weights or a gym. Do pushups in your room. Got a backpack? Load it up and use it as a weighted vest. Do some pullups. Don’t use the hotel closet bar, though. Go to a park, find a low tree branch, anything strong enough to support your weight. Squats and walking lunges with your backpack are good, too. Use your creativity instead of complaining, you’ll feel better for it.

It’s too bad you got sick. France and Italy have the best food on earth, sorry you couldn’t enjoy it.

Wow, that really sucks. Glad to hear you’re not more hurt - you’re very lucky. When I’m going through rough times, physically, I like to remember the following quote:

“That which does not kill me, only prolongs the inevitable.”


Jeez, rough story. I’m glad you made it through though pal.

I doubt the damage to your physique is as bad as you say. It often feels a lot worse than it really is. You’ll be back before you know it, but the first two weeks are really gonna suck.

I used to do shit work like this. I spent two months of the summer (6 months total) last year working 12-14 hr days (7 days a week) in a Chinese steel mill. I got a new job with no required travel and I have been so fucking happy since it’s disgusting. I suggest you look into it, unless you like your job more than you like training.