Plan for Your Peaks and Valleys
The timing of this message might not be ideal, considering we just started our Fall Fat Loss Challenge, but I think it’s still important to hear.
We can’t always be working towards a weight loss or fat loss goal. We have to give our bodies, and more importantly, our minds, a break from time to time.
Without these breaks, we’re perpetually coasting, hoping that we catch a break and the scale moves. We’re never able to go all in on a training and nutrition plan because we have no motivation left.
Structured “breaks”or “maintenance periods” allow us to refocus on what’s truly important: being happy and healthy. We can shift our focus to all the things in life that are more important than the scale, getting to the gym 4-5x a week, or what the inbody says.
Do you no longer love your workouts? Are you mentally exhausted? Are you tired of eating the same things over and over? Does working out just feel like a chore?
These are all signs that it’s probably time to give your mind and body a break.
Constantly battling the scale is not sustainable, and you miss out on all the best benefits of exercise: improved mood, increased energy levels, increased productivity, better sleep quality, increased libido, reduced joint pain, and an overall better quality of life!
These maintenance periods are times when we can workout for fun and focus on moving better and feeling better.
Disclaimer: You’re not on rumspringa! It’s not a time to go off the rails on your diet, quit exercising, and catch up on Netflix. I’m strictly speaking of giving your mind a break from your chronic need to lose fat and/or gain muscle.
A secondary goal of these maintenance periods is to re-motivate you. As I said before, if we’re constantly working towards the same goal or trying to move the scale, we’ll never have the energy or motivation to really generate any change.
Following a brief maintenance phase, your motivation, energy, and ability to adhere to your training and nutrition plan will be sky high! You’ll finally have the willpower to chase a peak. For the first time in a long time, you’ll actually be excited to diet, and excited that you get to workout! Can you imagine that?! Working out gets to be a privilege, not an obligation.
This style of training phases followed by maintenance phases is nothing new. Athletes and seasoned fitness enthusiasts have been using this for years to stay healthy and motivated.
Think of this as a graph. Following a maintenance period (flat line), you’ll see a sharp increase in your motivation and results. Once you feel a slight dip coming, it’s likely time for another maintenance period.
So let’s dive into what each one of these phases look like:
Training Phase (8-12 Weeks): A training phase is a structured time period when you are consistently following a scheduled training plan (i.e. coming to the gym 4x a week every week) and nutrition plan (sticking to sound eating 80-90% of the time). Your goals during this time should be lofty. After all, you won’t be doing this forever. You’ll also want to track progress (inbody and performance measurements such as max push ups/pull ups/etc) every 2-3 weeks throughout a training phase. During this time, you also need to prioritize sleep quality and really push yourself in the gym week in and week out. The training phases should align with a less stressful time of year for you.
Maintenance Phase (3-6 Weeks): A maintenance phase is a bit more generalized. You should still have a rough idea of how many times you’d like to make it to the gym per week (2-3x + staying active outside the gym). But you have a bit more freedom on training and diet adherence. Now your goal is to adhere to a clean eating plan roughly 70-80% of the time. Don’t feel bad about that extra glass of wine or having desert whenever you like. You should have more time outside of the gym for the things you like to do and the people you like to see. Prioritize your hobbies and socializing during this time. They go hand in hand with the mental aspect of recovery.
Notice training and nutrition are still priorities during both phases; remember this isn’t Rumspringa.
Maintenance phases should align with busy or stressful times on your calendar. That could be during holidays or during the summer with kids out of school and travel plans.
So what does it look like? I’ll share my yearly training schedule for reference.
Train: Jan 1- Jan 20: Quick holiday burn off training phase. More conditioning focus in order to drop some body fat.
Maintenance: Jan 21- Feb 17th: This time of year I know my schedule gets crazy with long days at the gym on my feet coaching soccer teams, so I decrease my training loads to accommodate.
Train: Feb 18th- May 17th: This training cycle, my goal is to lose body fat and preserve as much muscle as I can in the process. I’m more strict with my diet during this time than any other time throughout the year.
Maintenance May 18th-June 2: College athletes start to come home so I have a little less time to prioritize my own training. Instead of running myself thin, I back off a bit.
Train June 3- June 30th: I generally take a vacation at the end of June, so I can really push it knowing that I’ll have 7-10 days of rest and relaxation coming soon.
Maintenance June 30th – September 30th: This is grind time for us at GST. On our feet 6-10 hours a day in the heat. I know this is my most stressful time of year. Any time I get to train is great, but I don’t kick myself if I can’t get it done.
Train October 1st-December 31st: This one is a new one for me. I’m testing myself during football season. Can I stay on track with my training and more importantly my nutrition with all the temptation surrounding me at tailgates and watch parties. We’ll see how this goes.
So that’s it in a nutshell. I plan my peaks during the least stressful times, and plan my breaks during the most physically and mentally taxing times of my years. It takes some planning, but I can confidently say this method allows me to have fun, train hard, and get great results year round
Tips for Success
The longer your training phase, the longer your subsequent maintenance phase should be.
If you didn’t see the results you wanted to during your “training phase,” you probably don’t need a maintenance phase. You need to buckle down a bit more.
If you notice you start to go off the rails during your maintenance phase or your clothes aren’t fitting the same, tighten up the reigns a bit. Identify where you may be slipping i.e. snacking, alcohol, sweets, eating out, carbs and reduce your intake.
Base your training and maintenance phases around your life. What time of year are you the most busy? When do you have the most free time? The peaks and plateaus in your training should change accordingly.
It takes some trial and error to perfect this style of training. Many people aren’t necessarily ready for the strict work during the training phases, but I can tell you the freedom during the maintenance phases is worth it.
If you ever felt burned out from exercise, or feel like the work you put in at the gym doesn’t match your results, I highly recommend giving this a shot.
If you have any questions, and you probably should,shoot me an email at [email protected]