We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve suffered from an injury or illness, or just simply had some of life’s unexpected circumstances get in the way. Your busy week turned into a busy month, and before you know, it’s been quite sometime since you’ve put on the mat shoes or laced up the gloves.
Getting back into your martial arts training doesn’t have to be painful nor does it necessarily mean that you have to go back to the beginning. Having a plan and easing back can help you return to your best form sooner than you expect. Don’t call it a comeback, after all, you’ve been here for years.
Start Small to Finish Big
If you’ve fallen out of your workout routine there’s a right way and a wrong way to return after a layoff. If you jump right back in, you’ll be welcomed with sore muscles, an increased likelihood of injury, and even a higher risk of stroke and heart attack!
Although regular exercise is associated with a decrease in heart disease and stroke, strenuous exercise can result in higher levels of inflammation and blood serum levels of a substance called c-reactive protein (CRP). Higher levels of CRP are linked to a three-times greater risk of sudden cardiac arrest and a higher risk of ischemic stroke.
To avoid an unnecessary spike in CRP and other inflammatory markers, ease back and avoid long difficult workouts. Don’t try and pick up where you left off. Instead, begin gradually, and limit your sessions to 30 minutes for the first few weeks. If you’re patient, you’ll regain your endurance, strength, and flexibility in no time. Keep in mind, you’ll benefit greatly from even small amounts of exercise.
Eventually, you’ll want to ramp up to the optimal level of exercise, which studies suggest is approximately 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Although these recommended amounts will give you the most benefits, the “right amount” of exercise can vary greatly from person to person.
TIP: Adopting a new exercise routine (or any routine for that matter) requires changing behaviors and adopting new habits. The most successful martial artists have found that starting small leads to finishing big.
Reflect and Recreate
The unspoken benefit of taking a break from your kung fu or tai chi workouts is that it gives you an occasion to reevaluate your current training practices. Looking back on your progress (or lack thereof) can provide valuable feedback moving forward.
Perhaps, you struggled with consistency and motivation in the past. To overcome these obstacles, you might solicit the help of multiple workout partners. Training with others is not only fun, but studies show that those who exercise with others are more likely to stick with it.
TIP: Whatever your obstacles might have been, taking a step back can provide a valuable opportunity to make adjustments that will improve your results. Talk with your instructor, who has more than likely coached others through similar difficulties, or experienced the same thing themselves.
Setting New Goals
Elite level athletes schedule breaks in their training for rest and recovery, but also to reprioritize and set their sites on new goals.
So, when returning from a layoff, do what many world class athletes do. Use it as an opportunity to revisit your training routine and establish new objectives. New goals can be a tremendous source of motivation and provide a sense of direction and focus in your martial arts.
Are you aiming for your next rank so you can learn that new hand or weapon form? Wanting to become stronger or more flexible so you can excel in grappling or kickboxing? Regardless of what you choose, set a SMART goal, and then get after it.
TIP: Learn about setting better martial art goals here.
Whether it was intended or not, a break can sometimes be a good thing. Rest, recuperateration, and rejuvenation are part of any balanced workout regimen. A break can also give you a chance to reflect and set your sights on new goals.
Who knows? Perhaps you’ll return feeling mentally refreshed and more excited than ever before!
by Ben Stanley