Fitness Overtraining & Exhaustion

Fitness, Overtraining and Exhaustion: The Importance of Applying Down Time or Breaks in Your Routine

I’ve been training for 34 years whilst training others for over 25 of those years. Without some down time or intermittent breaks during my exercise regimes over the years, it’s highly probable and likely that I wouldn’t be exercising today.

I’ve also advocated this method to others that I’ve trained and the outcome speaks for itself: For a sustainable exercise mindset that stands the test of time, breaks and lower rates of exercise are absolutely imperative and 1000% required.

I’ve seen it time and time again and continue to notice those who simply cannot slow their exercise routines, or don’t understand the importance of taking some time out.

These individuals inevitably sabotage their future routines; burn-out, break-down and negativity create the opposite mindset that fueled their motivation, drive and discipline that set them up for success in the first instance.

It’s extremely important to schedule down time or breaks in your exercise regime.

I’m going to give you some hints and tips you can apply whether you’re elite, intermediate or novice.

Yes, I did say elite and in fact down time for the elite is just, if not more important, as it is for the beginner.

A Chat with Danny Green, Australian Professional Champion Boxer

A few years back I was chatting with Danny Green, Australian professional champion boxer, many of you will be familiar with him.

We were seated at a cafe in Melbourne’s CBD sipping coffee while Danny was in Melbourne for a few days prior to travelling back home to the West Coast. Danny had retired at that time, but did make a successful comeback against Anthony Mundine a couple of years later.

Anyway, I brought up the subject of recovery, rest and down time during training.

If you’ve heard Danny talk or caught him in a moment when his energy is high (seemingly all the time!) you may have observed the positive and epic vibe that Danny exudes when passionately chatting about things he truly believes in.

Well, this subject just set Danny off and I noticed the focus and piercing stare in his eyes directed towards me when we commenced banter about this subject.

At that point I would not have wanted to be at the receiving end of one of his blows and felt so glad that the adrenaline I felt was due to his passion, excitement and desire to discuss the topic.

Danny wholeheartedly agreed with the ideology of intermittently lowering exercise intensity and believed that down time had significantly contributed to bringing out an even greater version of himself, and had likely increased the longevity of his boxing career.

In Danny’s words, ‘I’d go so hard during training and day after day I’d train again, back it up, train again and back it up.

Then after a few weeks off after retiring I went back into the gym and could not believe how strong, fit and powerful I was, more so than when I hit my peek!’

Those words resounded with me as we continued to talk training exercise and performance tactics.

How to Apply Down Time when You’re Highly Motivated

You see, even an elite athlete like Danny Green learnt shortly after his initial retirement (after over 20 years of boxing) exactly how important lowering your training intensity and consistency is in order to avoid burn out.

Danny and his team, including his coach, were so adamant at the time that the intensity and consistency of Danny’s workouts were the basis of his success.

I won’t argue that point except to say that as incredible a fighter Danny turned out to be with all of his achievements and accolades, I believe he may have been even greater…though this may be a futile assessment after the fact.

The sincere point I am alluding to is that training breaks and slow-downs are always absolutely highly beneficial and worth undertaking.

It’s this mindset and fact that can play a significant part in you achieving your best possible outcome.

It’s the exact same discipline and focus that is required to take time out when you’re on a roll or highly motivated as is required to pull up and take a little time out or lower your intensity (strength-trained athletes sometimes refer to this as ‘de-loading’).

Applying down time and or lowering intensity is as simple as A B C.

The ABC Steps

A – Take Time Out

Taking time out and understanding that time out will in fact enhance your short and long term goals is your first step.

With this mindset, by incorporating breaks or a week of de-load every so often, you’ll immediately see, feel and enjoy the results.

You need to completely understand and apply this concept for absolute best results.

B – Mix it up every 10-12 weeks

Breaks are best taken every 10-12 weeks. I recommend an entire 7 days off from your usual activity.

If you absolutely cannot stop your routine, it’s best to do something completely different from your usual activity.

If its weight training, for example, that you’re consistent with, take 7 days to do anything that doesn’t place the same load on your body and mind: Pilates, yoga, and swimming are just some examples but it could be anything you desire or any other form of exercise you’ve considering.

Preferably an entire week off is my primary suggestion, but if not, nearly as beneficial are other forms of exercise that are not usual for you.

C – Lower your intensity

If it’s lowering your intensity or de-loading that you prefer, and just cannot bring yourself to cease exercise for a week, then here are 3 fundamental rules to apply:

1. Lower your volume of exercises.
Try performing only 3 sets on all body parts, and only once in that 7 day period. If you undertake another form of exercise other than resistance/weight training, then halve the amount of volume you do for 7 days. Literally halve the workload.

2. Be consistent with your breaks throughout the year.
Forecast and apply them at least 3-4 times yearly to maximise your benefit.

3. Lower intensity must relate to less volume of exercise at a lower rate.
Any form of lower intensity for a 7 day period will suffice. If you run for example, and you can’t force yourself to stop, then as a suggestion 7 days of walking as an alternative is a perfect option.

Longevity and sustainability really are the keys to reaching both long and short term goals.

Taking a break or lowering intensity whilst injured is not the same thing.

It is best to apply these principles on a regular basis when you’re progressing and feel like you’re at a peak or close to it.

This will assist in preventing injuries and continue to provide you with progress.

If you prefer to pick times during the year when you’re on leave/holidays or have other priorities, those times would be ideal, but most of all adhere to these principles regularly throughout the year.

Doing so will assist the avoidance of fatigue on so many levels, and allow you to be the very best version of yourself.

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