Some people have a routine that they’ve been able to maintain for years, that keeps them healthy and fit, and are not necessarily looking for more. There is nothing wrong with that, and I commend you.  If however you have  bigger weight loss or performance goals, this post is for you.

Avoid Maintenance Mode

When you come off an intense couple of months of training, the tendency is to want to go into maintenance mode.  The mindset is something like this:  “I’ve worked my butt off six days per week for the past 8 weeks, if I drop my exercise to 3 days per week for the next few months I should be able to maintain.”  That’s a bit like a business owner working around the clock to grow his/her business, then after a few months deciding to work half day – the business won’t last long.

The reality is that when you work hard in the gym for an extended period of time you raise the bar.  You adapt to a higher level and your body requires a progressive overload – a steady effort to keep raising the bar in order to keep growing and moving forward.  If you work below the level required for change, you’re not going to maintain, you’re going to go backwards:- Over time, you will lose strength and fitness, you’re likely to lose focus, your discipline towards eating and training will probably slip, you become despondent and fall back into old habits. At best, you will yoyo between period of intense exercise and nothing at all, worst case scenario, you will drop out of exercise altogether. If you’re not striving to move forwards, you’re at risk of going backwards!

My suggestion: Instead of adopting a maintenance mindset, plan your training in cycles with short and medium term goals in mind.  You can break your training down into weekly cycles, monthly cycles, quarterly cycles and annual cycles.  The purpose of training in cycles is to vary your intensity and volume, to steadily apply an overload and progress optimally towards your goals without injury or burnout.  For example, you may want to add a tapering week every 3 to 4 weeks, in which you lower your intensity and/or volume of training for a week to adequately recover for the next month’s cycle of higher intensity training.  At the end of a quarterly cycle, you may plan a few days of full rest and recovery before starting again, stronger and more motivated than before.

Life happens, we all know and experience the difficulties of work, relationships, raising families, etc, and there will be times when your best laid plans will go out the window.  If you are in a maintenance mindset, chances are, when times are tough, your health and fitness will be put on hold.  If you break your training up into cycles, with a clear plan and goals, life may at times take your plans along an unexpected path, to which you will have to adapt and compromise, but you will maintain forward momentum and continue to progress. If you need any help with your planning, feel free to get in touch with me.