If you’ve been exercising vigorously for over 8 weeks, then congratulate yourself. Then, take a break. Now, vigorously might mean three hundred different things to three hundred people, so let me put it simply. If you’ve gotten to the point where lifting has become a chore, then stop for a minute.One of the best things you can do for long term body composition is to adhere to a strict lifting/exercise routine. The second most important thing is to adhere to a consistent diet of mostly protein, fats, leafies, and starches/sugars only as needed. The third most important thing is rest. Growth Hormone for instance, peaks when one is in a fasted state. Go to sleep a little hungry, and get plenty of sleep.
But one often overlooked strategy for long term body composition goals is a periodic break from what you’re doing. So many people I know that struggle to get this part of their life handled are also the kind of people that would go nuts if they weren’t lifting as often as possible. But I’ve learned from experience, any time you force yourself to do something, even if you know it’s good for you, the results you get from that work will start to dwindle when it becomes a “chore” rather than a “choice”.
What happens when something becomes a “chore” we figure out how to do it as efficiently as possible. We figure out that sticking a bunch of shit under the bed is a quick fix for organizing our things so they’re more easily accessible the next time we need them. We figure out how to mindlessly get through it and in effect we also learn how to not maximize our physical effort in doing so. Look at the ghosts on the treadmills. They’re buried in a book, or staring off into the flatpanel tv dangling precariously from the faux ceiling. The “choice” to become stronger, leaner, sexier, has become a “chore” that must be quickly taken care of, rushed through with little thought of WHY we’re here in the first place.
If you’ve found yourself getting into this mindset, and be honest here – you’re the only one you have to be accountable to, then it’s time to break yourself free from that mindset. The first step towards making it a “choice” is to CHOOSE NOT TO. That’s right.
There are ample studies showing that a 7 day break from any kind of hardcore training can be beneficial to the mechanisms responsible for growth and metabolism. But that’s not why I’m interested in the break. I’m interested because I’ve discovered after 15 + years of lifting and dieting, that anything I feel like i HAVE to do, becomes something I don’t treat with care and concern.
So do it. Take the day off. Hell, take the week off. Do something you love to do instead. If you still love to lift, fine, take a week off anyways. Let that week of getting decompressed fuel you to kick ass twice as hard the week you do resume your training. When you do get back in the gym, form a gameplan, but always leave room for choices. That’s why I prefer to lift with a focus on movements rather than muscles anyways, because it leaves a whole window open for choice. Sick of doing pullups? Work on another pull exercise, like pulldowns, palms facing, slow and controlled. The idea here is to leave room for recognizing that, even though you’re a driven and determined individual, the decision to challenge yourself every workout is still a choice you make. Keep it playful. As much as Nike and Gatorade, and Powerbar might try to convince you this is some serious shit, it’s not. IT’s what YOU MAKE IT. And if being serious all the time, and working out when you don’t really feel it, or staring off into the distance while you’re on a treadmill just putting along is working for you, then don’t stop.
But if you’re like me, and you find yourself waking up from a bad dream known as “I’ve been doing this so long I don’t even think about it anymore” then snap yourself out of it. Change things up, and most importantly, take a break every now and then. If for no other reason than to motivate yourself to push twice as hard the next time you get in the gym.
I’m not talking about tricking the muscles, or muscular adaptation here. I am far from the expert in that realm and there’s plenty of people making a living figuring out why muscles begin to adapt to certain workloads and forces and routines. What I am an expert at, is the mind, and when the mind has adapted to something it tends to lose interest, and lost interest tends to lead to lost benefit. Once you’ve adapted to something, it’s time to shake things up. Start with a week off, de-stress, re-set some goals and then let me know how you get on with it!