Given I run a blog which has a large emphasis on fitness this may seem like a strange topic. In addition, it’s not like I’m a high level competitive athlete so why do I even want a break? Well, there a few reasons contributing to this decision that I feel probably effect more people than we realise. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll understand why it’s relevant and be able to learn from my experiences…
Firstly, I should outline exactly what taking a break means to me…
I think most people will automatically assume that taking a break means going cold turkey. Whilst I understand that train of thought, it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. There needs to be some context to the situation. Taking a break can mean different things to different people depending upon where you are coming from. In this case, taking a break doesn’t mean stopping training all together. Whilst I understand this may sound confusing, let me explain why.
To me, taking a break means spending time away from the level of involvement you currently have within an activity. Therefore, if you are heavily involved in training taking a break may mean dropping down to one workout a day. Or, maybe, only training 3 times a week rather than 5-6 times. If you currently only train 1 day a week then yes, it may mean stopping altogether for a bit.
So, it’s important I make it clear that for me, taking a break doesn’t mean completely stopping training. It means I will be reducing the volume I do, both per session and days of the week. Now that I have explained that, let me explain why this is the case – this is the bit I feel is important to a lot of people.
True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body, the two are ever united…
Okay, so let’s take a step back from that deep and meaningful expression and look at why I have used it.
Essentially, what it is saying is that to enjoy yourself you have to look after not only your physical condition but your mental condition too. Compromise one for the other and you will begin to lose enjoyment in your chosen activity. In short, find balance.
Unfortunately for me, over time I have gradually lost that balance and enjoyment mentally. I have experienced it once before when I used to play a lot of golf. I have an all or nothing personality and I got so focused on being a professional golfer that I didn’t realise I was losing my love for golf mentally. Hours and hours of practice, whilst physically I may have been making improvements, mentally I began to hate it.
Luckily, I have learnt from that experience and have recognised that I need to take a step back from training. I can now take control of trying to find that balance again. I can get back to enjoying training for the physical benefits but also for mental enjoyment.
Worryingly, I feel this same problem occurs with lots of people without them realising it…
It’s not easy to identify when that balance starts to tip one way or another. I’m sure many people, across all levels of ability go on for years like this. Not enjoying it in one sense but carrying on with it to satisfy another part of themselves. There’s not necessarily a big indicator that it’s time to take a break. More often than not it takes a long time just to realise you may not be enjoying things, let along do something about it!
In my humble opinion, this is why I think we see so many elite sports personalities having meltdowns. The demand of what they do places so much pressure on one side of the equation (physical vs mental) that the other breaks. You then see one of the following:
- Injuries- physical meltdown
- Acts of (seemingly) self-harming behaviour – mental breakdown.
For me I struggle with the mental side of things. I stop wanting to go and train and start to just plod through the workouts. This isn’t really beneficial at all so I recognised I needed a break.
I’m taking a break from my usual training to begin enjoying it long-term…
That’s pretty much the underlying reason why I’m taking a break. Taking a break from my usual training to restore the balance and begin enjoying it in the long-term. Rather than repeatedly doing workouts that are prescribed, I’ll be working on things I want to.
Now, that doesn’t mean cherry picking or avoiding weakness. It is possible to enjoy working on weaknesses! However, it may mean that I just go and lift weights without conditioning. I may just work on gymnastics for a week or so. Workouts may just be 20 minutes or only a few times a week, who knows? Whatever it is, I’ll be doing it because I want to do it and I enjoy it.
I’ll keep running in the morning as it clears my head and makes me feel better for the day. My afternoons will likely have a short workout, some skill practice or just nothing at all. However, nothing will be too taxing or require me to push too hard mentally. Once I get back to having fun again then I’ll start to look at going back into more intense training. If that takes a week, cool, if it’s a few months that’s also fine.