No matter how diligent you are, it’s inevitable that you’ll have some unplanned time off from your training at some point. If you haven’t trained in a week, or more, how you start back will greatly affect your return to form.
As discussed last week, I took a break after coming back from Nepal. This has led to a few posts about training that don’t focus on a program. Here’s the first. And the second. Today we’ll tackle three simple steps that will get you up to speed as quickly as possible.
1. Start slow.
If you’ve only missed a few workouts you can jump back in where you left off. After about a week, however, you’ll have rebuilt most of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and want to be careful about causing damage. Those fibers, which help you excel, also burn out quickly. Training too hard can destroy them all in one workout. It’ll be a great workout, but it will destroy you for up to two weeks, setting you back even further.
To keep this from happening start slow, as in way too slow. Your first workout might be, say, a warm-up, a couple of exercises, and a thorough cool down. It will seem ridiculously light but that stimulation will start prepping your body by forcing its hormonal reaction (especially if you were fit when you took your break) to exceed your breakdown, accelerating your comeback.
Each day thereafter you should ramp back up, adding slightly to your workload. Take about a week to build up to full workouts, and longer for all out explosive/dynamic work.
2. Do slow resistance.
Even if you’re a endurance athlete, adding some resistance will help you get back to speed quicker. It doesn’t need to be every workout but weight training stimulates strong hormonal responses and slow and controlled resistance movements (body weight can be fine – push-ups, etc) are safe and allow your body to prep its joints and connective tissues for rigors you’ll be facing in the future. Even if hypertrophy (muscle growth) is not a goal—-or something you want to avoid—-targeting it here is extremely helpful. You won’t gain any weight that can’t be lost once your training kicks in.
Endurance athletes should also keep in mind that cardiovascular and endurance fitness returns very quickly. Focusing on other aspects of training during a comeback will build a stronger base and increase your capacity for endurance work later on.
3. Do mobility work.
Many athletes (I’m guilty) focus too much on the obvious performance aspects of training and neglect the subtle (and perhaps boring) things that support fitness gains in roundabout way. Mobility training, which including stabilizer muscle strength (goofy-looking exercises like this) and range of motion (stretching n’ stuff) work, is more effectively trained after a break because you’re body’s not so taxed and will respond quicker. Your comeback is the perfect time to start good habits, both mentally and physically. Many athletes (and non-athletes) return from injury stronger than they were before, which is generally because someone makes them add mobility training to their regimen.
pic: earning a break on thorong la pass, nepal. credit: jeremy soawyer