Pauses in training are inevitable with injuries, vacations, new babies, crazy work schedules. Unfortunately, life just happens, and before you know it, you’ve been away from your training routine for weeks or months. It would be nice if these pauses had zero effect on our bodies or our minds, but that’s just not reality (unless you’re superhuman). For the vast majority of us, pauses of any length come with some kind of penalty. My penalties from my two-month “pause” are that I am slower, weaker and discontent with my appearance. I trust that I am not alone in this, so I felt the need to let you in on my mental journey over the last couple weeks.
According to the dictionary, a “pause” is a temporary stop or rest, or a cessation of activity because of doubt or uncertainty. Your pause may have been caused by something physical, internal or external; or maybe it was caused by a mental struggle of self-doubt. Either way, you’ve undoubtedly felt some kind of “penalty” as a result. A penalty is a loss, forfeiture, suffering, or the like, to which one subjects oneself by nonfulfillment of some obligation.
The latter part of the definition cannot be left alone. It says “…to which one subjects oneself ”. This means that the power is yours to take back! You are the one who can step back into the fulfillment of the “obligation”. I know it may seem like you are the victim of what caused your pause (and you may very well be), but the reality is that no matter what part you played in taking that pause, you can take an even bigger part in coming back from it.
Step 1. START!
You have to make yourself get back to it. Your first day back may be extremely humbling, so leave your ego at the door and be proud of yourself for making the move.
My first day back to training (12/27/17) after a two month “pause” felt like a hot mess, physically and mentally. I kept battling the voices in my head telling me I would never get back to what I used to be, but I just kept moving and felt so much better when I finished the whole workout.
Step 2. START FROM HERE!
I know that sounds a bit redundant, but one of the hardest things to do is not compare yourself, to your old self or to others. A little advice from Dawn at Mentality WOD…
“Remember not to compare yourself to where you think you ‘should’ be, or to what you ‘used to be able to do.’ You are you, today, and that’s more than enough. You are different than everyone else…and have your own goals and focus areas. You may not feel 100% but you are still lucky and blessed to be able to do WHATEVER it is that you’re able to do. You’re not going to get all of your fitness back in one day, but you can and will feel better each time you give your full effort.”
I truly could not have said that better.
Step 3. START SMART!
The only thing worse than coming back after your pause and feeling weak and slow is to come back from your pause and create another pause because you’ve injured yourself. I did a little research as I decided to write about this topic, and I found some really sound advice from CrossFit Kennesaw. Below is a snippet from the article, but you can read the full article here.
“Keep in mind that you might need a little extra time to get back to your previous level of badassery. Talk to the coaches [or a trainer] about what scaling and modifications you should do and for how long you might need to do them.
Get an FMS. If you’ve been out for an extended period of time (over 60 days) or were out due to an injury, get a Functional Movement Screen to see what, if anything, might have changed during your break. You’ll get some stability and mobility exercises to work on, and they can help prevent future injury.
Be patient with yourself. Coming back after a break is hard. Weights you lifted easily before the break might seem 100 times heavier. It might feel as if you’re running through molasses. Ease into the movements and enjoy the fact that you are getting back to your routine. Your body will get accustomed and you will be getting back to your usual weights and times with consistency and dedication.”
All three of those points are crucial! Don’t just jump back into it without a wise assessment of your movement. The last point definitely resonated with me as well. My second workout back on New Year’s Day was even more humbling than the first one because I tried to add some heavier weight; and it absolutely felt 100 times heavier than it used to! I felt the urge to either go cry in a corner or change the workout movements, but I made myself scale back the weight and complete the movements. The entire workout consisted of some serious self-talk to keep my mental game in check, but I managed to finish it all, and I felt a lot better than I would have if I had given up.
I know I am not where I used to be, but I also know that I am making steps toward getting stronger, faster and healthier with each decision to step into the gym. And I know that each time I do, I am one step further away from that long pause and the penalties that followed.
What we do with the “penalties of our pauses” reveals our true character. We can either choose to remain in the penalty box, or we can lay down our pride and let the challenges make us stronger, more dedicated and more grateful. So no matter what causes your pause or how long you’re there, take back the power and fulfill the “obligation” to make your health a priority.