Sometimes in sport, the best thing for you to do is to take a break, be it for a few days, weeks, months or in my case, years. This article focuses on some things which suggest you should be thinking about having a break for a while if they apply to you.
1. Not having fun
Ok yeah, training isn’t always fun, sometimes its a hard graft you have to go through to earn your place on the podium or to be the guy with your hands in the air after the final bell. But if the entire process is no longer outweighed by the feeling of winning, or if winning doesn’t give you kicks any more, then it might be time to thing about having some time out. If you’re in MMA perhaps try a new martial art and focus on that for a while or even stop fighting completely and try something new like track or weightlifting. Coming back afterwards might give you a new perspective on your sport and make the whole thing more rewarding.
There are factors we can’t control throughout all of our lives. Stress can reduce your performance and a heavy training schedule can prevent you from dealing with the problem. However, depending on your relationship with your sport, you might want to only reduce your training load rather than take a break as exercise is a great way of reducing stress. This is one just to bear in mind and it is down to you how you deal with it.
3. Loss of motivation
If you’re just turning up to training because that is what you do and you have a bit of a “Same Shit DIfferent Day” attitude, your motivation and drive is low and your performance will probably follow. You probably won’t be having fun and you’re probably looking for excuses not to train. If this is you, Take some time off until you feel motivated to get back into the gym/dojo. Make sure you communicate with your coaches, just upping and leaving can alienate people who have your best interests at heart. If you do build up the urge to train again, you’ll find yourself much more driven and focussed on a goal than you were before and you’ll fall in love with the sport all over again.
4. After a big fight
These next 2 are more practical reasons. If you are competing at a high level, you might want to think about taking a few days off at least after a big fight. If you’re training properly, you ought to have come to a peak not long before your fight and you’ll need a deload period of lighter training. This reduces stress on your nervous system as well as giving you a psychological break. It also allows your hormone levels to return to normal immediately after the fight as your testosterone is probably jacked. Once you’ve had few days break and a lighter week of training, you can then work off of that baseline to work up to a peak before your next fight.
This normally applies much more to the younger fighters. Unfortunately I’ve known a number of friends and family (myself included) who have decided that they are recovered enough to train despite doctors or physio’s orders and they end up with worse injuries. If you love your sport and you want to have a professional attitude, stop training and do your rehab properly (like the pros do) or you may well end up having to stop much earlier than you’d like. Going through the recovery process properly will increase your longevity and reduce the damage you take over time. This is especially true for concussions which can lead to very serious complications if not delt with properly.
I took 2 years away from Judo after having practiced more or less every week for 12 years. I wasn’t finding the sport that much fun, I had not drive or purpose and because of that, I wasn’t going anywhere. I just quietly slipped out of training and stopped communicating with everyone (why I reccommend communication in point 3). However after a couple of years of focussing on other aspects of my life, I learnt how to motivate myself again and came back to train. I’d set myself a goal of getting my black belt and trained hard with determination for it and when it came to my grading, I won the line up in just under a minute and a half. The takeaway message here is if you need to: let it go and you may even come back better later on.
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