How To Take Time Off From Training

From the desk of: Christopher Walker

Subject: Training after months of rest

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Most people would never consider “taking time off” of training.

They think they’re instantly going to get fat and lose all of their hard-earned muscle mass.

I’ve had a completely different experience with “time off.”

In today’s article, I want to talk about my experience with only training less than 10 times over the last 4 months.

This may inspire you to experiment with taking a break for a while — but maybe you don’t need one. Either way, this may be helpful.

Sometimes, regardless of how well we think we’ve planned our lives, things just go in a certain direction.

Most people try and fight the current.

But sometimes you just need to roll with it.

I’ve had quite a few tasks at hand on a daily basis that have required a lot of my mental energy and focus, and I personally find that when I use a lot of brain energy, my desire to workout goes out the window.

It’s not right or wrong — it just is.

4 Things I Learned From Not Training

1. You can find stability and peace of mind outside the gym

Most of us look for stability in our fitness routines.

We go to the gym X days per week at xx:xx o’clock – no matter what.

It’s our “release” or our “therapy.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but I also think that becoming completely dependent on something like a “harmonious” training schedule can be detrimental in the long run, unless your everyday life is extremely predictable, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future (which is true of many people).

However, when your daily life can be unpredictable — maybe you have a dynamic career, maybe you travel a lot, maybe you just like to remain flexible in your schedule — pigeon-holing your routine to rely on predictability can be dangerous.

I’ve had many clients and readers email me with frantic tones needing advice on what to do for their upcoming business trip or family vacation, freaking out because now, for whatever reason, they’re not going to be in the same familiar environment they’ve become reliant upon.

I think it’s entirely healthy to find stability OUTSIDE of training as well as within in it.

Diversify your stability, in other words. 

If life throws you a curve ball, you’ll be able to hit it.

2. You won’t magically lose muscle

I’ve always preached that people worry WAY too much about losing muscle (or in other words, why protein supplements are a multibillion dollar industry).

If you build your muscle the correct way, with slow and steady progress and sustainable strength-based lifting and/or calisthenics, then it’s not going to magically disappear.

Will your tone decrease and your “pump” diminish slightly? Yes, most definitely if you’re not in the gym for 4 months.

But you’re not instantly going to turn into Slender Man or Fat Albert just because you want to take a little break from training.

Even I was surprised at the amount of  conditioning I maintained over this past 4 months, though.

I didn’t lose much at all.

And when I was consuming on the lower end (like when I travel or am very mentally consumed by a new project), I actually looked BIGGER, from just eating less and getting a tad leaner.

After my recent trip to Austin, TX, I came home and my gf commented on how big and defined my arms looked.

The funny thing was that I hadn’t done any real exercise beyond daily walking for weeks.

3. You have the ability to focus more mental energy on other areas of life

Back when I raced elite triathlon, I trained A LOT.

Every day for 2-6 hours.

And guess what, I was braindead 24/7.

I don’t know how I even completed my homework in college, honestly.

All I could think about was training training training.

Then when I stopped, after about 6 months of “recovery” I noticed that my mental capacity was sky-high.

I felt like I could solve any problem – I was better at all of my subjects in class, was more sociable, and generally more confident.

My sister (who ran on a full scholarship for a Division I college and was 2009 5,000m National Champion in track) also had the same experience when she stopped training.

Now, obviously these are extreme examples, but something still rings true…

If your physique, training, and gym time consume a lot of your mental energy you will not have that capacity to put into other things that are probably more important, like your friends, family life, building a home-based business, or starting a blog. (just some examples)

4. Sometimes you just need to chill

I’ve also learned over the years that sometimes you just need to chill the f** out.

Like I said earlier, we all try and fight the current of our lives, when sometimes it’s not the right thing to do.

Sometimes you just need to roll with it.

If your life isn’t conducive to training right now, and you’re causing yourself a lot of mental anguish over your inconsistency (more important) then maybe you should just take a little break.

It’s not a big deal.

What’s the big rush, anyways?

Conclusion

Now that I’m back into training a few times per week again, it’s fun to look back on this experience over the past handful of months and take these lessons out of it.

Hopefully these helped you at least think a little bit more about the subject.