Resting with intent: is a deload your best friend?

by | Mar 6, 2022 | Public Access | 0 comments

Training & exercise like everything in life are stresses we have to manage. To improve at something we must push ourselves to the edge of discomfort, the sweet spot so to speak and then allow sufficient rest to adapt and overcome our previous levels of competency/ability.

Exercise & Stress

On the flip side, if there isn’t sufficient stress and too much rest we will move backwards and lose capacity. In extreme cases such as hospitisation patients can lose almost all of their lean tissue/Strength and VO2Max/aerobic capacity In 4 weeks of bed rest.

Now you’re probably wondering what this all means. To most who’s primary motivation to train or participate in exercise are for the health benefits this balance of stress & rest are usually in harmony. For those that continually push themselves to the edge or beyond the threshold of comfort that balance can quickly become a one way ticket to an injury, illness or a significant loss of motivation as the demands of training increase.

S.A.I.D: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands

The SAID principle is the physiological/psychological process by which an organism adapts to stress. Firsty you have the stressor which can exist in magnitude and duration. The reaction of the organism to the stress and the ability of the organism to recover and produce a supercompensation to overcome the new demand.

Stress: 5k run, Alarm: sore muscles and performance loss, Rest & Supercompensation: improved fitness & performance. Rinse & repeat? Right..? that’s where it gets tricky.

Stress, Rest, adapt & repeat works until it doesn’t. As your training age increases so will the volume & intensity of training increase to allow supercompensation. Eventually you’ll reach a plateau in your performance that is limited by a myriad of factors such as sleep, nutrition, lifestyle and genetics. This is where the use of e deload can be vital to continued improvements.

Deload or Periodisation?

A deload is a planned period of reduced training volume or intensity & both depending on the strategy used. It is much easier to maintain biomotor or component of fitness than it is to build. A deload aims to sufficiently stimulate retention of fitness/strength/Speed or whatever it is you are working on whilst also facilitating a higher level of recovery. This allows much higher intensities or volumes to be used for short periods of time with planned periods of supercompensation. Thus you come back bigger, faster & stronger.

Psychologically it can allow greater levels of motivation because of knowing an easy period of training is coming up. In seasoned athletes/trainees this can make all the difference when those beginners improvements dry up but you still want to push the boundaries.

Some strategies include 2-3 weeks of escalating volume or intensity followed by a week of significantly reduced volume up to a half but maintaining the same intensity. There are many configurations but this is the one I like.

Concluding thoughts

If you’ve been training with intent for a while, improvements have started to slow down or you find yourself picking up niggles then a deload may suit you. If you are relatively strong and you find hard sessions beat you up and motivation wanes with time, deloads may be for you. But if you like to go to the gym, you keep your loads on the edge of discomfort and don’t do large amounts of volume then deloads may not be for you. Context is key.


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