This past week I took 5 days off from high intensity, high impact and heavy lifting exercise. It was tough, but my body was at the point of exhaustion and it has definitely done a world of good, which is why I decided to share my thoughts and advice on taking a break from exercise, or ‘deloading’ as it is also called.
Over the past few months I have felt a dip in my motivation, and that is perfectly normal, but it’s very hard to train through, particularly when I was getting up at 6am to try and go to the gym, and my body was just like NOPE, and then my brain was also unable to push through. Not only this but my knee (which is injured but which I work around) has been a bit sore recently, and I was talking to some friends about maybe taking a break from exercise and after they all agreed it might be a good idea, I just took the plunge.
At first it was weird waking up and not having to go to the gym, but really it flew by, and my first gym session back on Friday was pretty good! I feel a lot less tired, my knee feels better, and today I killed a session at the gym, and am feeling back on form.
So why is time off a good idea?
It’s a very good idea because if you continue to train as hard as possible, eventually something is going to give, whether that’s you becoming exhausted, ill, reaching a plateau in your fitness level/weightlifting/fat loss or the worst case scenario: getting an injury. Taking a break is not only great for your body (our muscles require rest in order to heal after exercise and thus become stronger) but it’s also great for your central nervous system as this needs a rest just as much as your muscles.
How often should you take a break?
This weeklong break was my first, and it probably took too long to do this! For someone who trains as I do it’s advised that you a few days’ break every 10 weeks. Top athletes and the like may have a deload week every 4 weeks, this might not be a total break from training, but they could just do less intense training or reduce their weights if they’re lifting.
What should you do instead?
Well for me, I just focused on getting enough sleep, I still stayed active (I did some yoga, took an MMA class and I tend to do a lot of walking on a day to day basis due to living in London), I ate very cleanly and ensured I was still giving myself the proper nutrients, but I just gave myself the rest and recuperation I deserved! We’re taught to be ‘go go go’ constantly, and the idea of having a break from exercise, something you’ve worked so hard to motivate yourself to do in the first place, is a bitter pill to swallow. But it’s important to listen to your body, and suck it up and rest when you need to! I know first hand how hard it is to deal with an injury and I would never want to have another one, so give your body the break it deserves and requires to avoid getting ill or injured!
Even just taking a weekend off or a few days if your busy is a good idea, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an entire week. I know a few people who have had very specific workout routines (which is great!), but they will push themselves to the edge just to make sure they fit in the workout that is planned, even if that means getting less sleep. I think above all it’s important to find balance in the way you live your life, both in terms of exercising and in terms of ensuring you get the required sleep and relaxation time that as a living, breathing animal, we actually need to function at our best, and everyone wants to be able to function at their best right?!
P.S. I am not a physiotherapist, a personal trainer or a nutritionist, so this is just my personal opinion, there are a lot of articles out there that go into more depth on deloading and what is means for specific training routines, so if you’re curious I would 100% advise you to do some reading, or just go into that break full throttle and take some time off!