Jan 15th, 2011
Want to be strong like Tami? Patience is the key.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes breaks in training will occur. Coming back from these breaks needs to be handled conservatively to ensure a successful return to demanding physical activity. Getting injured or becoming catastrophically sore serve as further impediments to doing what needs to be done – training regularly with purpose and drive.
There are sometimes good reasons to take planned, generally brief, rests from strenuous activity. We are not concerned with such episodes here as such breaks are generally last less than a week and allow for more or less uninterrupted training and progress. The question of how to come back from multiple weeks, or months of inactivity is our focus. On these intermediate time scales, strength and endurance are lost and the muscles become detrained. The nervous system adaptations that resulted from the previous training efforts, however, ebb more slowly. When a layoff occurs, the nervous system retains the ability to fire the muscles with greater force and frequency than what the muscles can handle. If a trainee returns to a hard workout after a layoff, massive soreness is often the result.
Here are some ideas to allow for a swift and productive return to training:
On the first workout back, go very easy. Scale weights and repetitions to the point that your pride is insulted. That will be the correct starting point. Some soreness will still result and that is fine. The object is to avoid crippling soreness that serves to discourage another return to the gym. Also, going very easy at first allows momentum to build for rapid improvement. Scale difficulty upwards within reason thereafter.
Avoid training seven days in a row when the previous three months involved nothing more strenuous than a brisk walk. People do this. A lot. Once again, soreness and potential injury await when such a path is followed. Strength and conditioning are built gradually through smart programming and proper recovery. Work out, rest, and then workout again. Patience is important.
Dan John, who recently moved to The Bay Area, has often noted that there is nothing more conducive to making progress in the gym than sleep and food. Trainees do not become stronger or faster from exercise. They reap these adaptations by recovering from exercise. Upon a return to the gym, remember to match food and rest to increased demands of training.