March 19 , 2015
Savvy marketing tactics and social media posts have successfully created a culture with the mentality of “No Pain, No Gain” and “Go Hard Or Go Home”. People are constantly posting photos of the brutal WOD they just did on the board or photos of their bloody, ripped calluses in their hands, or their sweat angel on the floor post workout. These images and quotes of training hard is in our face ALL THE TIME and it has become the norm in today’s society. Unfortunately people believe that blasting themselves all the time is the way to get real results.
This is so far from the truth.
If you don’t have a training goal in mind and you’re simply hitting the gym to get your butt kicked, then you might as well stop reading this now because I’m not going to change your mind anyway. But if you have a specific goal, then hopefully you’re training with a training program that has that goal in mind. Recovery weeks (aka de-load weeks) and low-intensity active rest days are important elements of a well-designed strength and conditioning program to help you achieve that goal. If all you did was train at high intensity day in and day out for weeks on end, then your nervous system will burn out, you will fatigue, and you can potentially injure yourself.
This concept isn’t new to experienced strength coaches but the frustrating challenge we face today is that we live in an age where the majority of people believe they need to have their butts kicked ALL THE TIME with CrossFit style, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts to achieve their fitness goals. I’m here to tell you that the image you see on social media is the result of someone’s hard work of a SINGLE training session. The image or video does not show you the program they used. It does not show the recovery sessions of yoga or corrective work they did. It definitely doesn’t illustrate all the trips they took to see a physiotherapist or any other clinician to get fixed up. It shows one moment in time people. That’s it. There’s way more to it than what you see on the internet and a good coach knows that. My advice is quit getting wrapped up in the hype of what’s posted on the internet and do your best to listen to your coach. Leave the real programming up to him/her as they know what’s best. Try and speed the process up on your own and you will be sorry you did.
A well programmed recovery week allows your body time to adapt to the training stimulus you subjected it to in the previous week(s). Your nervous system needs a chance to reset. Your tissues need time to adapt and your muscles needs time to recover. It doesn’t mean you don’t lift, it just means you lift at a lower intensity (i.e. lighter loads) or lower volume. It doesn’t mean you don’t do cardio, it just means your cardio won’t be as intense. It also means you should probably shouldn’t be doing stuff that looks like CrossFit HIIT that week. WHAT?! That’s crazy!!
A good recovery week also introduces protocols that help aid your body’s recovery. Examples of this are patterns like the Ido Portal Method Corset protocols that not only improve ROM but also develop strength in that range. Performing these protocols are challenging for most people and it feels like strength work when you do it properly. During a recovery week I’ll program 2-3 sets of a couplet or triplet of protocols that compliment the workout and aid in recovery. During the heavier training weeks, I’ve recently programmed 1-2 sets using these protocols for pre-workout to prime the nervous system, joint, and tissues, or post workout help aid in the body’s recovery process.
So in the end, taking recovery weeks or de-load weeks doesn’t make you weak. It makes you smart. It provides an opportunity to give your mind and body the reset it needs so that you can hit next week’s more intense workload. Treat those recovery weeks as gold and embrace them with open arms. They may not be glamorous and might not provide you an opportunity to post an amazing photo of a crazy workout you did but they will actually help you achieve your goals more so than more “likes” on your Instagram or Facebook posts.