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The benefits of taking a summer break away from exercise, and tips for a successful return to your training

The talk in clinic is all about holidays right now, and some of our clients have some concerns about how their summer break could negatively affect their regular training, and they have questions about how to return to it safely – whether gym training, running, cycling, or a particular team sport.
The truth is that there are some excellent benefits attributed to taking a full break from your normal training, and we are going to outline those for you in this blog, as well as give you some good tips to help you back into your normal routine.

The benefits of taking a break from exercise

All professional athletes and any clued-up amateur fitness enthusiast will train in a programme that incorporates a short period of rest, known as a deload. The deload is just as important as any other period of a programme, and those in the know really benefit from the mental and physical benefits that it provides. A deload phase in a weight training programme might feature a reduction in weight and/or volume, or in endurance sports, athletes might reduce a combination of speed, intensity, or volume. So, your summer holiday is your deload!

If you’re regularly exercising in any form, taking a break for 7-14 days will deliver great results:

• Improves muscle-building potential and performance over the long term
• Allows recovery for your central nervous system, joints, and soft tissues, including your aching and overused muscles
• Reduces the risk of injury upon your return, due to the improved state of tissues, the function of joints and nervous system
• Enables relaxation and the opportunity to mentally recharge and focus on your goals and next phase of training.

Just switching off and relaxing, and having a great time; lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormone levels, improves cardiac health, boost T-cells (helping with immunity), triggers the release of endorphins, and produces a general sense of well-being.

We chatted with Sports Nutritionist Tom Mitchell about the true physiological effects of overindulging for a couple of weeks, coupled with some enforced inactivity.

“7-14 days of overeating, potentially with a rise in alcohol and sugary food and drink will of course cause weight gain – both water weight, which will come off fairly quickly, and fat – which will take a little longer to shift. However, if you’re somebody who regularly exercises and ordinarily has a stable diet, a fortnight of overindulgence will remedy itself after returning to your normal eating and training. Once you have regained consistency, if the weight isn’t decreasing, you can start to think of slowly increasing your deficit.
The important things to remember are to; not put pressure on yourself just enjoy your break – this is one reason why you train hard after all! Restart your healthy eating with consistency as soon as you can, and don’t cut your calories massively to try and catch up – you’ll just feel horrible!”

Our top three tips for returning to your training after your summer break

Whether you’re excited to get back into your training again, or lacking in motivation for what lies ahead, here are our top three tips to getting back into it safely:

Concentrate on consistency, form and technique over ‘numbers’

Whatever your sport, you’re likely to keep a close eye on your numbers – either your pace, how heavy you lift, or maybe your heartrate. Of course, those numbers are likely to be off whack when you return – it may look like you’ve fallen behind, or you may find that there are some surprising benefits to taking a break. Numbers shouldn’t be your focus on your return – sure, measure and benchmark, but use the first couple of weeks back to concentrate on building consistency in your training once again – show up time and again for those early morning sessions for example, and concentrate on your technique and form. Your body will likely be moving better – everything may feel more free, but having taken a break from training you are at risk of too much too soon, so take it easy and your numbers will soon pick back up again.

Check your mindset and expectations

How are you feeling after your break? Hopefully you’re refreshed and looking forward to getting started again which is going to feel great, so take the time to check-in with yourself and think about your expectations for your next phase of training. Is what you have in mind achievable and sustainable? It’s easy to get a bit carried away and go too hard, too soon (especially if you feel you’ve ‘over’ indulged’), and then lose momentum. Head back to your training with an open mind – your body may not perform as usual – in a way that could disappoint, or even surprise you!

Have a solid, simple plan

Having a training plan, plus individual session plans is really important. But it doesn’t matter if your plan is three points written in ‘Notes’ on your phone, or multiple rows on a colour coded spreadsheet – so long as it suits you and your goals. Know what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and why. A plan should take you step by step to your goal – large or small, it helps you monitor your progress, and can prevent over-training. If you do have an important goal to achieve, consider working with a coach for your planning.

Putting it simply, your summer holiday is the secret ingredient to taking your training from good to awesome. It actually makes you stronger and able to train better, reduces your risk of injury, gives you the opportunity to engage in some different activities, and gets your head back in the game for the next phase of intense training. Embrace it!

We can help you here at the Rehab Hub with all of the aspects covered in this article, our Sports Therapists are trained to assess sport-specific movement and the needs for training and performance, so do reach out if you need any help at all.

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