De-loading. So important for many reasons. But why do we fail to do it? Is it because we’re scared we’ll lose our drive? Our routine? That once we give ourselves a chance to breath that we’ll never start back up again? Are we afraid that our muscles will soften or magically turn into fat? Is it because we don’t think we’re getting a good workout unless we’re left panting and sweating in a pile on the floor? (More on that later…)
Ok so maybe you don’t hate to do it. But I find it frustrating. A mind game. A time when I really have to let go and “trust the process.” However I know how important it is and in the last few years I’ve been recognizing the need for a scheduled de-loading week in training.
Let’s start with what a de-load week is. It’s a week where you decrease your training volume, intensity or even frequency. This means you may continue your workout routine (yes keep moving!), but use lighter weights, around 50-60% of your normal. Or you’d use the same weight you usually do but drop your volume by cutting your sets and reps to 50-60%. The reason why I am posting about this is that we’re getting into our kettlebell competition training and so I will speak specifically to this since we are training intensely. For example, if we’ve been working at 2 x 4 min sets, we’d decrease the time to a 1 x 2 min set. No matter what you decide to do, at the end of the workout, you should always feel like you have some energy left…resist the urge to use it!
The benefits of a de-load week:
- Gives your ligaments, tendons and supporting tissues time to recover
- Gives your mind a break
- Reduces the risk of injuries
- Reduces the risk of the symptoms due to over training
- Keeps you excited about your training (right??)
- Gives you time to relax and work on your technique
- Allows for greater gains
- Allows your central nervous system (CNS) to recover
Ok so all these things are great and it makes a lot of sense. And I notice in myself that I’m more energetic and have a renewed passion for my workouts when I return to ramp it up again. After the de-load is up, I’m itching to train hard!
Let’s discuss the last point though, in regards to your central nervous system, as it is very important and often overlooked. It’s fairly easy to wrap your head around the fact that your muscles need to rest between training sessions, but it’s hard to understand how and why you should rest your CNS. First, let’s take a look at what it is.
Your central nervous system is comprised of the system of nerves in your brain and spinal cord. From my understanding, the CNS is instrumental in the perception and processing of sensory stimuli and it carries all the nerves that control your movements. Your brain receives messages directly from the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and the spinal cord receives messages from the muscles, skin and joints. This helps you to figure out how to respond and react to certain stimuli.
How does this relate to training? Well if you are overstimulated with life’s stresses (ie work, a move, new job, kids, financial issues etc) and you are working out at the gym at a high intensity and a high volume, you run the risk of CNS over training or fatigue. This will make you slower and weaker in your regular movements and day to day activities. You may even become accident prone as you lose coordination. Many suffering from CNS fatigue lose their motivation and become irritable…of course, if I didn’t want to do anything and constantly felt tired and sluggish, I’d be cranky too! (The possible hormonal changes are another story for another day.)
At the end of the day, you want your training to complement and add to your life…not detract from it. Energy is finite. If you’re constantly using it all up at the gym, your life outside of the gym will suffer. Running after your kids? No way. Hanging out with your friends past 8pm? Nope. Hiking with your partner? Uh uh. And don’t even think about a sex life. Libido in the gutter.
Now you’re seeing why de-load weeks are so important. The challenge is programming it into a class setting where people have different training frequencies, and schedules. This is what I’ve been struggling with for a while…(hence this blog. And the last one.)
People want a challenging workout, balls to the wall, grunting, sweat dripping, hardcore, killer class. They want to feel they’ve worked hard and feel it in their muscles the next few days. (They’re paying for it right?) It’s a challenge as a trainer to give people what they need, not what they want. Especially since it has been so ingrained in my head that a good workout leaves you feeling sore for days afterward. (I’ll save the reasons why this changed for me in another blog.)
However this is not the sign of a good workout. Anyone can do that. You don’t have to be a genius to make someone sore. Here, do 250 push ups. That’s your workout today. Go. (Ok it’s getting late and I’m getting tired…but you get the picture.) Doing this type of workout all the time can work against your progress. Actually it WILL work against your progress. At some point, there will be no more to push and you’ll start exhibiting the signs mentioned above. Injuries are imminent. So let’s get on scheduling your de-load week so that this doesn’t happen to you. (Are you scared? Because I don’t mean to scare you. For most average gym goers, this will never be a problem. But if you are a regular exerciser, this is something you should have in your training program.)
Sometimes de-loading weeks happen naturally when people go on holidays or work schedules change, but they are best pre-planned. Then you can mentally prepare to consciously take down the intensity and not feel guilty about it. Yes, within our training week in classes, we cycle between slower strength based workouts and quicker high intensity tabata style workouts; we also have days where we focus more on technique with lighter bells, mobility or yoga to balance our training. However this may not be enough if you are attending more than 2 classes per week, especially if you have a high stress life outside of the gym.
How do you decide how often to de-load and how do you do it while attending classes? Well in our competition training class, we will be de-loading on the same schedule, so you can follow along with us. Or you can chat with one of your trainers about de-loading and when you should be doing it. (It can be anywhere from every 3 weeks to every 8 weeks depending on your training intensity, frequency and lifestyle.) In classes, resist the urge to push it. Tell your trainer that you are in a de-load week and we’ll support you. Hit up a yoga class or two that week. Pick up a lighter bell than usual and take lots of breaks. Use this week to focus on your nutrition and your sleep to support your training. Exercise is great and moving is always better than not. But if you want to train hard, you must train smart. This week, we de-load.
#trusttheprocess #kettlebells #competitiontraining