When did you last take a weight lifting layoff? Until a few years ago I never took a layoff in training. Not ever. Like many who exercise, I held the mistaken belief that if you don't train you won't gain.
Never missing a workout, I would push myself to the limit and then some. Crimson-faced and gasping like Darth Vader with a chest cold, I would grunt and grind out do-or-die death reps long after my aching limbs had screamed "Enough!" and my heart was pounding harder than Thor's hammer. This was high intensity... This was how you GROW, right?
Looking back, a pattern would soon develop. This punishing regime would continue for a few weeks before I would get injured, or ill (or both), then I would find myself needing to take an enforced break.
Sound familiar to you? If you exercise regularly, most trainees find themselves locked into this nightmare or something very similar.
Here are just a handful of the symptoms you are likely to experience:
Any sane person reading that list would think there is something wrong (and there most definitely is), and would likely avoid the cause that put them into that harmful situation. But what happens? You frustratingly find yourself repeating the same morbid mistakes: you hit the gym hard, you never miss a workout, you make yourself ill or get injured.
And yet... this cruel cycle of events is not inevitable.
With some smart strategy and a healthy dose of precaution, you can avoid these nightmarish symptoms.
Taking a week off from training is a great place to start. Only instead of waiting for tragedy to beset you, the secret behind this smart strategy is this: you must plan your layoff and follow it as faithfully as your exercise routine.
For example, I often train in three week blocks. Yet during week four, I will... take a walk; go for a swim; play golf; get a massage; chase a frisbee... what I DON'T do is go anywhere near a barbell.
Why? I already trained hard. Now I'm kicking back with a cold beer... Now I'm relaxing and recharging my batteries before I go at the weights again - and until that time, this dummy doesn't want to see so much as a dumbbell!
Does that sound radical?
Perhaps it is. But there are some hard-hitting and respected coaches out there promoting this prudent philosophy, and they have the results to prove a planned layoff really works. People like Dan John, Jason Ferruggia and Jim Wendler to name but a few.
Oftentimes you've got to balance three steps forward with one step back - even when your training is abbreviated.
So to repeat my earlier question: when was the last time you took a planned layoff from your training?
If you haven't enjoyed a break in a while, maybe now would be a terrific time to start.