December 4th, 2017, Monday morning, 7:40 am. 18 weeks and 5 days out from my next bikini competition.
The struggle is real.
After a week off of training and cardio due to moving from my 2 bedroom apartment with an attached garage where I lived alone for the past 2 years into the basement of a friend’s house with my boyfriend of 6 months, along with 4 dogs (1 mine, 1 his, and 2 my friend’s) plus my cat, and pretty sure I have a cold, I am having to come back into my normal routine gradually. Why did I decide it was such a great idea to do all of this at once? It’s a character flaw. Overly optimistic and ambitious. The good news is everyone is settling in better than expected and a new routine is soon to follow. Plus I have plenty of time to make up for the week lost from my prep. Lessons learned, moving forward.
Coming back after a week off of training may not seem like much, but trying to jump right back into the same routine with the same intensity and weights is a recipe for severe muscle soreness that can hinder further training in subsequent days, called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This is usually worse the second day after the training session. It is amazing how quickly the body can become deconditioned. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS! It is important to drop the weight by 25% on the heavy lifts and cut the sets down to 2-3. This is just for the first week when you get back in there. How slowly should you ramp it up again? It depends on how long of a hiatus you took and how your body is feeling. For me this week, especially with a bit of a cold, I’m keeping my cardio to 30 minutes of steady state first thing in the am after a cup of coffee, then cutting back my sets to 2-3 (instead of 4-5), and cutting the weights back for the first set, adding a bit more (but not back up to my previous level) on the next set if I’m feeling good and the weight feels light. It’s also important to focus on the mind-muscle connection during each rep, practicing perfect form and contraction of the muscle(s) being worked. This takes more discipline for some than getting into the gym again. Mentally, you feel ready to jump right back in. Physically, your body needs to be warmed up again. Do you take off from a cold start in the middle of winter in your vehicle after it’s been sitting for a week or more? I should hope not! The following week, you can ramp up to 75-85% of your former training level and intensity (i.e. I will increase to 3-4 sets and add more weight as I feel my bod is ready to handle it). By week 3, you will be back to your regular intensity, and may even surpass it from the reprieve your body had during the time off.
It is a balance, and every person is different when it comes to finding that sweet spot of intensity, reps, sets, and pushing heavy weight to get the desired results vs the breaking point of over-training and injury. This fine tuning comes with experience and keeping a level head, drop kicking the ego out the way. When you work with your body, you get amazing results you would have never thought possible. Work against it, and it will break on you. It’s a basic law.
Recommended reading: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.