- Happy birthday, Nolan G. and Chris P.!
- Wanting those mad abs for your time at the beach? Check out KH’s Pilates class tonight at 7:30pm!
Returning After a Layoff, or “How Barbella Got Her Moves Back”
By Noah Abbott
Stupid, pesky life. Just when you’ve gotten on a roll—hitting PR’s, mastering new skills, dropping or gaining some weight—life has a way of barging in the door like Cosmo Kramer, and knocking everything askew. New jobs, new babies, injury, vacation, the beginning of football season, great happy hour specials—the road is littered with temptation and obstacles that seem purpose-built to knock you from your lofty perch of swoledom.
So what to do? First and most importantly, get your ass back in the gym. Email us. Just show up. Walk through the door. Follow the programming and do what you’re told, even if you feel listless or without a real plan. Like Ol’ Greg Glassman likes to say, “The magic is in the movements.” Don’t worry too much about your time off, and just start moving again.
Of course, this wouldn’t be much of an article if the only advice was “Come back to the gym.” It certainly isn’t always that easy, so here’s some additional stuff to think about:
A Unique Opportunity
Instead of obsessing over rustiness, lost gains, or WODs unWODded, let’s reframe your “extended rest day” in a positive light. Any nagging injuries or fatigue you may have been dealing with have most likely resolved themselves. Did you have any bad habits or movement patterns before your time away? You now have an opportunity to reprogram your body and reestablish good motor patterns. Commit to eliminating that early arm pull in the clean, scarecrow arms during double unders, or soft deadlift setup. Years ago, as a BJJ athlete, whenever I came back from time off, while I would feel undeniably rusty, my Jiu-Jitsu would always be more creative and explorative when I resumed. Old patterns, tendencies, and strategies would have fallen away, replaced by a sprawling menu of possibility. Zen Buddhists call this shoshin, or beginner’s mind—“an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.” Use your time off, and harvest that shoshin, intrepid Crossfit samurai.
You Don’t Own Anything
One of the worst things you can do, both in terms of safety and your in-gym confidence, is to try and pick up right where you left off. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially if your numbers were trending upward, and it is incredibly tempting to try and resume your lifting progressions approximately where you left them. While you probably haven’t lost a significant amount of strength (most suggest somewhere between a 10-20% drop in 2-4 weeks), and you could probably will the weight up on grit alone, your body is most likely not prepared for the load, and the risk outweighs the benefits. “But I own 225#!” you say? Sadly, we don’t own anything in the gym. Strength and skill are perishable qualities, and at best we are renters, subject to the whims of those cruel and unforgiving landlords. (This should be a pretty familiar feeling for anyone who has ever rented an apartment anywhere in New York.)
Similarly, it’s tough when being paired with classmates for racks to try and keep up with the same “crew” you had previously been lifting with and benchmarking yourself against. Unfortunately, while you’ve been out having babies or shooting your movie or whatever, they’ve been steadily plugging away, and at this point in time, they are likely stronger than you. Realize this is only a temporary situation, check your ego, and you’ll be reunited once again.
So, treat your layoff like a reset after a failure in a linear progression, even if you were cruising along smoothly beforehand. Take 90% of your last documented lift numbers or less—you really can’t go wrong starting lighter and having things be “easy” for a while. Don’t worry, they’ll quickly get hard again. Start climbing back up that hill, Sisyphus!
With conditioning work, things are simpler. You’ll feel pretty gassed for the first few workouts, and then progressively better. Take it easy for a week or two, and consider scaling movements to slightly easier alternatives until you feel like you’re fully “back.” If you are a heavy hitter athlete, who consistently RXes workouts and has taken significant time off, be especially wary of jumping right back into the deep end. Remember, in that deep end lurks Rhabdo—often ballyhooed, rarely seen, but perfectly suited to laying low deconditioned fit people with big egos.
Now that you are a little more equipped, come on back to the gym, we miss you! Remember, puhleeeeeze do not hesitate to ask the coaches about any component of your illustrious comeback tour, especially if its due to injury. We love that you are tough cookies and stoic, steely-eyed warriors and all, but we are happy to work out scales, subs, and other quandaries of the anatomical, theoretical, philosophical, and metaphysical variety. We want to be your co-pilot on your road back, but we can’t read minds (YET), so please let us know what’s been going on so we can do our best to help.
See you in the gym.
How have you relocated your groove after some time away from the gym?
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