Return to Training
2020 has been a crazy year of ups and downs and the same can be said for your exercise routine. Lockdowns, freedom, gyms shut, gyms open, the uncertainty and inconsistency can be difficult to manage. For the lucky ones you have had a set of bands and some dumbells to use in your living room. For others it has been hundreds of air squats and press ups. Whatever your routine over the past year, you may now be thinking about returning back to the gym! *Fireworks*
Should I pick up where I left off?
While it may be tempting to take 2 scoops of pre work out and blast through the gym door guns blazing, this is not the right strategy. We need to set up for success and there are two major things we need to consider, physical performance and mental performance. Now depending on the length of time out of a consistent training regime these two factors can play a major role.
If your time out from the gym/track has been short then your mental performance may have increased. A deload week or even a few weeks complete rest can give both the mind and body time to recover. This will leave you fresh and motivated to pick back up where you left off.
For a medium term out of training of 4-8 weeks you may feel disheartened not to be pushing for personal best lifts first day back. However muscle memory is a real thing! Be sure to log your lifts and track times and watch those numbers return back to normal range fairly quickly!
For a long time out of training, anywhere from 4 months plus. You may feel anxious about returning and feel angry at yourself for not sticking to your previous regime. These are all normal feelings that everybody will go through and you are not alone! What is important at this stage is to track progress! As above, start a training log and use your performance improvement as motivation to keep going.
You have been hindered from regular training for a short period of time due to lockdown or personal reasons. You are now itching to get back out there and keep progressing! For short term time off we recommend you pull back from full intensity just a little bit...If your previous intensity was a 10 then pull it back to an 8. If you ran 10km in 40 minutes, aim for 45 minutes. Remember the key to success and consistent performance increase is frequent training. You can only train frequently if you are adequately recovered. Training at full intensity after time off is going to impact your recovery big time and potentially postpone your next training session.
If you have been out of a regular training regime for a longer time then it is best to progress slowly. At this point your central nervous system will be shocked when exhibited to load or hard training. Push too hard too early and this will wipe you out and leave you tired, lethargic and with a serious case of muscle soreness. It is best to start a training log immediately and slowly build up by 5% each session until you reach an intensity similar to your previous peak performance. At this stage you will have lost a lot of neurological strength and performance. For example your body will not immediately remember the strength profile of a bench press and therefore the pathway will not give optimum strength. However muscle memory will be a huge factor here and something to give you motivation going forward. Muscle memory is a form of biomechanical procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor tasks into memory through repetition. As you get back into your training your body will tap into this memory reserve and your performance will start to increase sooner than you think!