The key to fitness and long term health is to be consistent with your training; follow smart workouts that fit your age, goals, home life, and equipment; and ultimately, to practice a balance that respects your mental state.
Unfortunately, you can do everything right — make goals, get your training in, and then life brings joy, distraction, and some tough moments. These moments can be points for disruption and breaks in your fitness.
I know this first hand — personally, where I have had huge time commitments from my work, travel, and passion projects (such as writing a book or two that absorbs all waking hours). I also know this from coaching hundreds of athletes at this point and navigating around illness, injury, surgery, pregnancies, disease, and everything in between.
Navigating around injuries and life events, is a normal course of life. Losing your health and fitness is not.
What I have seen and now have scientific research to support, is that no matter what is happening you can still benefit from training during these events. The type of training and intensity simply change to match your life, and that is where you lean on your coach.
Before I get practical and share some baselines, activities, and the research we need to address the elephant. YOU must respect yourself. You are training to make yourself better everyday for your own benefit. One day you may be running 2 miles and the next only able to walk a mile due to an injury — this doesn’t mean you are less fit but instead simply healing and continuing.
Injuries — work around them, respect them, give yourself time to heal and don’t make them worse. Typical math: if an injury takes a week to heal and you make it worse, then it now needs nearly 2x that time to heal. So, we need to respect the injury and build around it.
Colds and everything else — mind the stress on that body. Your training adds stress, so if you are sick or super stressed we need to really lower the intensity (that could be 70–80% easy pace, or that could be simply doing mobility and soft tissue work that we may not get around to regularly.
Simply put — if you maintain SOME level of activity during these moments in life, you will reduce the time to reaching full training speed again.
The science shows that for each level of effort / intensity there is a direct correlation to the time to returning back to full fitness level pre-injury. This supports the need to KEEP investing in your fitness, but effort matters.
Some key examples from the research
- Training at 20, 40, or even 60% of training load the time to return from injury is significantly reduced
- An athlete who goes full STOP in training for 2 weeks due to an event will need another 4.6 weeks to return back to full training, or 6.6 weeks from event to full speed return
- If that same athlete maintained 40% training volume during the 2 weeks after their injury, they only needed 2.3 weeks to return to full speed
- Same athlete training at 60% training volume — needed only 1.4 weeks to return to full training volume
Point blank — this is why you scale, adjust workouts, add variety to your training, and find a way to invest in your health.
“Longer breaks in training and greater drops in volume and intensity require a longer progressive return to full training to reduce injury risk.”
What I also love from this research is the ability to communicate and set horizons and timelines on time to return to training. Especially helpful when working with athletes and motivated individuals who are relentless in their focus and goals.
Patience is practical when paired with smart training that delivers your goals and health hand in hand
I love your zeal, your passion, your drive, and focus on making you the best person you can for yourself, your family, and the future. When life gives you challenge, let’s work around it smartly and with intention that respects your moment. There is so much good that you can embrace and build upon-injuries and pauses are only what we make of them, and thankfully you have a choice.
Ask your coach, build a plan that respects the event and allows your medical provider’s protocols to work, and then act on it daily with the same attention and diligence you would seek and wish for your friends and family. In most cases, an adjustment will help you maintain fitness, it can be used to improve some of your weakest areas, or at a bare minimum — reduce your time to returning to full performance speed.