Time Off


What happens when, “I haven’t seen you in the gym for a few days” turns into “Where the hell have you been, man!”

Is there a downside to too much time off from training? Sure there is.

Sometimes we need a break–physically and mentally–from training. And sometimes life interjects a break in our training whether we want one or not. Regardless of how it comes, it’s important to avoid falling into the sedentary trap where a short break in activity snowballs into a complete loss of forward momentum.

Pounding our bodies with heavy weights and strenuous workouts day after day, week after week, takes a toll on the body as well as the mind. For some, a day or two off is all it takes to recharge the batteries. But for others, a vacation from the gym is the prescription to maintaining a healthy relationship with the iron.

So what happens to your foundation of fitness™ when a brief hiatus from the gym turns into an extended sabbatical?

I was recently away from the gym for ten days. Once back under the bar, the side effects of my time off became painfully apparent when I attempted to squat. I felt weak and unstable under the bar. And a weight I typically handled confidently felt like a ton of bricks. All I could think was, “What the hell just happened?”

I once heard Louie Simmons of West Side Barbell say that within a two-week period of inactivity in the weight room, force production (relative strength) can drop by up to 20%. This is obviously different for every athlete and depends on variables like age, genetics, rest, nutrition, and training level, but the implications are very eye opening.

For the average CrossFitter (if you can call any CrossFitter average), this may not be a huge deal. But for the competitive athlete, such setbacks aren’t in the game plan.

You need to keep your baseline strength level high and avoid taking too much time off. You have to be strong to be trainable. You want to be at 90 percent strength or higher at all times. You don’t want to be at 80 percent strength and then have to work yourself to death to get back to the place where you can start to really train and get stronger again.

Just like the effects of a healthy lifestyle are cumulative, so are the effects of an inactive lifestyle. Take time off if you need it–but not too much time.