“Taking a Break” – we’ve all heard it.

So, my girlfriend and I have taken the plunge… into parenting. It’s a new chapter in both of our lives, and we love our son with parts of our hearts that we didn’t even know we had!
He’s such a good baby – honestly, he’s rather awesome, if I have to humbly say so myself (but everyone agrees…)

But, as with any major life event, there have been sacrifices… one such sacrifice has been my training schedule. I never made the conscious decision to cut training, but it did get trimmed… significantly… It was all of those little moments and decisions – waiting in anticipation for the birth of our boy, not wanting to leave the house (“just-in-case”… you know…), picking up more of the chores in the house because my girlfriend wasn’t really able to anymore, to taking the time to care for her and our newborn son. Work for the past few months as well, all while trying to figure out our new life situation and the baby’s schedule. 

It’s been one helluva ride – and it’s only been five months! (Everyone tells me that the best is yet to come… as well, and a little contradicting, that we’re going to miss this phase of his life. Well, either way, we’re enjoying the ride.)

I’m on paternity leave now, and have been for the past few months, which hasn’t ameliorated the “available time for training” limitation that appears to have gone extinct. Ironically, having all of this time off of work hasn’t really meant that I’ve had time – we’re still working on the whole ‘parenting’ thing, and the schedule was mucked up after a few weeks visiting family…
Additionally, I’ve even aggravated a back injury, resulting in less time AND less capability to train… It’s healing, mostly through my training techniques.

This got me to thinking about all of the people that I’ve trained with throughout the years, and the many that I’ve taught, who have taken a break from training due to injury, as well as other life events. Generally, when these sorts of things happen, most people claim to only need a break from training – everyone needs a break sometime – but, unfortunately, many times this ‘break’ becomes permanent.

The reasons that people take a break from (or stop) training are as varied as people themselves, but they do follow certain patterns:

Life events:
o Marriage – Getting married is a big deal, a highly emotional phase where people can get lost in the ‘rush’, and can take people away from their training for a while as they settle into their new titles (the roles shouldn’t really change from before they were married, but that’s another debate)
o Childbirth – A new human life is also a big thing, and a very heavy toll is generally exacted on the mother. Both parents begin to figure out their schedules with the new one, and their focus in life changes too – now with another life in their equation, totally dependent upon their decisions…
o Loss – This is also a very emotional phase, letting go of someone dear.

o Vacation: a break from routine and getting away from it all. This only really applies if the person isn’t training while they are away.
o Accident/Injury: an unfortunate incident resulting in a persons incapacitation in some way.
o “Done”: Some people willingly walk away from training, and their reasons also vary. They may decide that training is no longer for them, or there may be interpersonal conflicts with someone at the dojo…

But here’s the thing – is your ‘taking a break’ a temporary stop, or a mask that you hide behind when you don’t want to go back?

Here’s the interesting thing for many who do end up taking a break – most don’t return. From my own experience, people who take a break longer than one month generally have a 50/50 chance of returning. After three months, that rises to nearly 75%. When I’ve spoken to people who I have trained (or trained with) in the latter statistic, I almost invariably hear “yeah, I really want to get back into it, but…” followed by reasons like “no time”, “no money”, or “I’m not as good now because I’m older/injured, etc.”
The take-away from this is two-fold: 1) don’t take too long of a break; the longer someone is away from training, the less likely they are to return. 2) don’t make excuses; if you make excuses, they become your own impediments to return. If you don’t want to return, be honest – it’s not for everyone. If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “I’m coming back” but without intention, or just to placate someone you know loves it so that you won’t have to worry about answering questions (which, may or may not come), then you’re lying mostly to yourself. Be honest about your intentions.

If you genuinely want to return to training, make a plan for it. Not only should you give yourself a return by date (examples – two weeks after your honeymoon; three months after childbirth [this, as well as in the case of injury, take into account your physical capabilities]), and treat it like a goal.

Do you feel tired, or have you been away from training a long time? Then start small. When you stop participating in a physical training regimen, whether that is cardio and weights, or martial arts, your body responds to the new expectations in kind… Our bodies are dynamic resistance engines – here is where the old adage of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” comes into play. Is it lost forever? No – but you’ll have to work just as hard as you did before to work on getting it back.

Feel like you’re not as good as you were? You probably aren’t… Realizing that where you are now is not going to be the same as where you were before really will help you keep your expectations realistic. If you expect to come back from two months off of training and perfectly execute those techniques that you were doing before, then you’re in for disappointment. Well, for those of us who aren’t 20 years old anymore, keeping a realistic view of your capabilities and limitations will help you identify where you’re at, which will help you get where you want to be.

Don’t have the money? Don’t have the time? These are other major reasons that people cite, and both are relatively interconnected. Both require that you take a little time to fit them into your budget/schedule if it is something that you really want. Are you buying lots of recreational stuff like alcohol, cigarettes, movie tickets, or ten specialty coffees a day? Are you sitting around watching television four hours a day? If so, and you’re still saying that you don’t have the money or time to train, you may need to recognize your priorities – and that you’re probably only paying lip-service to your supposed desire to return to training.

Ultimately, regardless of the reason, “taking a break” should be just that, a temporary interruption in your routine. Be honest with yourself and, when you do decide to return to training, make a plan… I know I am.

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