When you started your fitness journey you gradually built habits, you trained consistently 2-5 times per week, you weighed and prepped your food and accommodated these things into your life over time.
You were extremely sore after your first session with a Personal Trainer. You found it difficult to walk down the stairs the next day. You spoke to your trainer who assured you doing ANYTHING new would have caused you to be sore.
The trainer also said the soreness would go down over time.
They said something about the ‘deregulation of pain receptors’ and you believed them.
They should probably have said "you'll ache less over time" but you forgave them and let them massage their ego for sounding so clever.
You were less sore after each session to the point where you wondered whether you were still training hard enough because you weren’t sore anymore.
You continued to make progress, achieved good results, and felt better about yourself.
You became strong.
It didn’t happen overnight and it was difficult. It was like climbing a mountain without ever knowing you were doing something incredible.
Then something happened.
LIKE BEING LOCKED INSIDE FOR 4 MONTHS.
You’ve fallen into a state where you are "untrained" where your body has lost most of your gains and strength, quite a bit of cardiovascular fitness and you are faced with the prospect of starting again.
You aren't starting again. It will feel like that.
Or you are in a " detained" state where you've been doing some bodyweight stuff, some light dumbbell, and kettlebell stuff but nothing like you were before lockdown.
This is where most people will be now lockdown is winding down.
You've lost some top-end strength and performance. Your fitness is lower and your training is not as fulfilling.
You are aware of this and you want to do get back to the top of the mountain where you routine is bang-on, you are prepping your food, you are training, you are hydrated and you are achieving your goals.
You want to be the hero you were before lockdown, right now!
Don't Be A Hero
If you are in an untrained or detained state you can't be the hero straight away.
Good people like you will try to jump straight back into having all of their habits in place ALL AT ONCE. They want to be on top of Mount Habit without having to climb it again.
At home, you'll get frustrated and stressed because you are trying to implement many habits at once. If you play the hero in the gym straight away, your chances of injury are increased significantly.
We want to avoid this.
People forget the journey up the mountain to great habits and a strong body was a climb gradually pieced together a few feet at a time.
It took you months or years to piece together all the useful habits that facilitated the results you are so desperately wanting to get back to.
It took you a long time to build up the amount of weight you had on the bar. Luckily, while in lockdown, unless you've been doing nothing you won't be at square one again. You'll have held onto a surprising amount of strength.
When you get out of these habits you can’t jump back in there and have everything in order with minimal stress levels instantly.
The longer you are away from the habits, the harder it is to build them back up.
You have to start building your habits again. If you've managed to hold onto some of your good habits, it's easier to add another in (like regular training) but building your great routine again will be tough.
“I forgot how tough this climbing stuff is!”
Habits take practice and time. Building strength and technique takes time.
When you take on too much and once it overwhelms you and makes building habits, strength and technique take longer.
This results in people suddenly finding a journey that they’ve done before harder than last time.
This is immensely frustrating!
Your experience can go against you.
You’ve not trained for four months but you know how your first session is going to feel the next day.
So you put it off another week.
You’ve realised there is a great big fucking mountain in front of you.
A big, intimidating mountain full of pain and inconvenience.
Here’s how I think you should tackle it:
DON'T BE A HERO
Pick 1-2 habits to work on, once you've nailed them you can add more
Schedule when you are going to train and stick to it
DON'T BE A HERO
Train for a couple of weeks 2-3 times a week, see any more as a bonus
DON'T BE A HERO
Build the habits overtime to climb the mountain as you did before
In the gym:
Plan a specific day and time where you will train. Make it happen
Start with short sessions
Be ready for the DOMS
Be prepared to go much lighter in your compound lifts or do variations you've never done before so anything is a PB!
Include some cardio if your activity levels dropped during lockdown
DON'T BE A HERO
Don’t try and tackle it all at once. Break the challenge of regular training and healthy habits into sensible chunks.
You’re aware of the difficult road ahead.
You know you are on a mountain.
Focus on one step at a time rather than trying to land on top of a load of habits that took you 6 months to develop and the process will be much faster because you aren’t trying to sort everything at once.
Remember, one habit at a time. Starting with training then go on to sleep habits, nutrition habits, or hydration habits and tick off each box as you build habit momentum.
The next step is to come up with a plan for it not to fall off the wagon again.
You can’t plan for everything but I’ve often found having a bodyweight plan on hand can keep you training through a long holiday or long business trip or a second, third or fourth wave of the coronavirus to keep things ticking over.
I hope this helps if you’ve ever struggled with any of the problems above.
Don’t forget about the mountain!
Don't be a hero.
Be sensible when you return to the gym.
By Chris Kershaw
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach