We've all been there - we were traveling for a few weeks, we had a really bad sickness; somehow the fitness program got derailed.
So it's your plan to get back on the fitness program, but you find yourself with absolutely no motivation. You feel apathetic about it. It's like Newton's first law: "objects in motion tend to stay in motion, objects at rest tend to stay at rest." You find your mind is trying to tell you to stay at rest. So you're rationalizing about why it's hard, and accepting excuses to procrastinate. You are so focused on other aspects of your daily life that you try to convince yourself that you don't have time.
Then the decline in fitness gets real as you lose control over your fitness, health, and decision making process. When you don't take care of yourself physically, combined with less than great decisions about what you eat, you get some pretty bad results. Now, instead of re-establishing your fitness from a point where you had only dropped 5 - 10%, now you might have to start from a point that is much farther away, as your fitness and health have fallen off a cliff. This happens to people all the time, and it's always a grind re-establishing the routine after things like business trips, international travel, sicknesses, or the like.
So how the hell does one get back to it? I'll share what I did after my international trip.
When I got back, I was jetlagged, and found myself unmotivated to push hard in the gym at all. I could feel that I had lost some fitness, and had lost some leanness. I was excited to help all my clients get back to all their training, but personally I was struggling to get my own program in gear. It was just sheer discipline that I got myself doing anything for basically the entire first week.
I record all my workouts on TrainHeroic, I mention this because even just the act or recording can be a motivating force, as I do not like to see on the calendar that I did nothing to get fitter. This establishes accountability. I could share every single workout I did over the last 3 and a half weeks since I got back, but I'll just share the basics for the purpose of communicating how I did it:
- I had to start with what I considered "extremely" easy conditioning - a few 5:00 intervals on the AirBike at a very slow pace - I had zero energy or motivation for anything harder at that moment, and I remember being very frustrated that such an easy workout, didn't feel that easy.
- The next day I slightly increased the total duration on the bike, and slightly increased the pace, and added some core work.
- The day after I worked on some light and technical drills for the Snatch. I felt surprisingly good and moved well, but just felt less powerful than I'm used to. I added some upper body weightlifting after, and I increased the intensity on the AirBike intervals again. I felt great after the workout, and then was totally caught off guard by the ensuing soreness for DAYS. I could barely believe it. Before the trip, that wouldn't have made me sore at all, but at this point it was like I had done a REALLY tough workout. That left me extremely frustrated.
- The day after that I went into some light to medium intensity Plyo Drills and some light running intervals, more core work, more strength work, and more AirBike with gradually increased difficulty each day. I had to do a lot of foam rolling and flossing of the calves and hamstrings to get away with that and recover from it.
- Took the weekend off, then got straight back into a similar pattern the next week, except I added more volume and frequency for upper body strength, and added more frequency for olympic weightlifting while keeping intensity and volume relatively low. I added more deliberate recovery methods for my legs - this made the recovery faster and the thought of doing lower body strength movements more bearable. At this point my progress was improving and it was starting to get motivating again, but it was still a grind.
The next week I followed the pattern similarly again, but with a particular variable raised; either volume, intensity, or frequency of everything.
Circling back to Newton's first law "objects at rest tend to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force." You've got to use your head to impart that force (strength of will + physical training) to get yourself moving again and building momentum on your program, even if the force is barely enough to get moving in the beginning. It gets easier as you go.
These are photos from some of the Snatch work I was talking about, and then a photo from one of the first times I was getting back on the Bike and I was barely able to get myself onto the bike at all haha. You gotta overcome that resistance to train. You run in to a lot of barriers and difficulties, both physically and emotionally, when attempting to come back like this. Just expect them and accept that there will be difficulties, just keep showing up and putting the work in.
SO here I am now, 3 and a half weeks later
- my cardio is probably only 0.5 - 1 week away from where it was before I left.
- my strength is probably 1 - 2 weeks off from where it was.
- my ability to handle the volume of strength work for the lower body may still be 2 - 3 weeks away.
It may take 2 - 5 weeks to get back to where you were, depending on initial fitness level, and that's if you're dedicated and you do a good job! That's ok, just accept it and keep moving forward.
The point is this:
Everything is cumulative in fitness, so put down more days that you did enough to get fitter than days where you got less fit. Have faith in the training process, give your body time to adjust to the stimulus. It will, and after a few weeks, you'll be killing it just as you were before the break!
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