Lately, I’ve found myself using a certain phrase with many of my clients to emphasize a point I’m trying to make, “sometimes you need to take one step back to take two steps forward.” I specifically emphasize that this is a lot different than the phrase “two steps forward, one step back,” which often has a negative connotation.
Perhaps it’s our always-on, go-go-go, society that we live in now that wants nothing but progress, but this concept has many meanings to both myself and my clients. Here are a few ways I incorporate this concept into my training, rehabilitation, and even personal development.
Fitness and Performance Training
As fitness trends continue to evolve and fads come and go, there are always two common complaints that I hear from people in regard to their training programs:
- I’m not making progress
- I’m breaking down
Either of these two complaints is enough for me to consider that you may need to take a step back. These tend to occur when your programming is not individualized based on your own specific needs and goals or when your always focused on “emptying the tank” every session.
Assuming you have a well-design strength or performance training program, the error tends to occur by always focusing on pushing the limits and not allowing your body to recover. If you are training to failure or competing at fitness every day, you have to be conscious of the fact that eventually this breaks down your body. This is normal, required to make progress, and advantageous, at least when used correctly. (photo credit)
However, to continue to make long lasting gains and avoid wearing and tearing on your joints and muscles, you need to incorporate some sort of deloading into your programming. I won’t go deep into the concept of deloading, as other people that are smarter than I am have said it well before. Here is a great article by Tony Gentilcore on why and how he incorporates deloading into his programming, for example.
When do you need to unload? It varies based on your training experience, intensity, and frequency. Rather than standardize a deload period, I have a simple criteria to determine if you need a deload week – are you plateauing your progress or are you breaking down? Simple.
But realize that deloading does not mean resting. Our deload periods at Champion take advantage of the time and work on enhancing efficiency and cleaning up movement patterns.
Also note, this concept applies to sports performance training. If you are 12 years old and long tossing in October to enhance your pitching velocity for next April, you really need to get better advice from someone that understands the concepts of periodization.
I’m a big fan of “regen days.” Often times during injury rehabilitation, people are trying to get back as soon as possible. For the highly motivated person, like the professional athlete, they often feel like they have to get after the rehab program every day to get back as fast as possible. I have actually found that this often SLOWS the process down!
As an example, in professional baseball, we play everyday. Maybe we have 2 or 3 days off a month. Sunday is usually a day game and getaway day, meaning that we need wake up early, pack our bags, check out of the hotel, play the game, then travel to another city. I was always a fan of taking Sundays off from rehab in professional baseball, and I was often looked at like I had two heads.
I seriously doubt we are going to make any significant gains on a Sunday morning waking up at 7:00 AM and rehabbing when last night’s game ended at 11:00 PM and you were in bed at 2:00 AM. We just crushed it all week in rehab, it’s time for a break. Get some good sleep and take the day off – both physically AND mentally!
That’s just one example. For the athlete that may be rehabbing daily, I often build my rehab programs with altering variables throughout the week depending on what phase of the program they are currently performing. For example, I often do a three day split with my baseball players:
- Day 1 – Strength based
- Day 2 – Stability based
- Day 3 – Regen
Again, “regen day” does not mean rest, but I can’t keep taxing the system every day. During the early phases of rehab, perhaps the first month or two after Tommy John surgery, we don’t need this as the training stimulus is not high enough, but once you start incorporating more advanced exercises and eventually throwing, this concept becomes important.
I always tell my clients – take a step back and you’ll come back twice as ready to go. By the end of the week, most of my clients are pretty beat down and ready for a nice weekend to recover. On Monday morning, they are ready to roll again. This is how you make big gains week-to-week in the rehab process.
Lastly, I use this concept all the time in my own personal development. We’ve all probably been in a place where we felt that the programs we are writing or how we were coaching our athletes was perfect. And I bet it was. But it was only perfect for that single day. As we continue to learn, grow, and develop, I push all of the team at Champion PT and Performance to challenge themselves. I want them all to look back at a program they wrote several months or years ago and think “I would write that completely different now.” (Photo credit)
That doesn’t mean that your program was poorly designed before, it means you have evolved your thought process and progressed yourself.
If you are writing the same programs all the time or can look back and your programs a year later are the same as last year, you are better than that. Take a step back, challenge yourself intellectually, learn something, evolve, and take two giants steps forward.
Taking a step back to take two steps forward doesn’t have to be negative. It’s still progress. Consider these tips and incorporate theses concepts into your training, rehabilitation, and personal development.