Sooner or later, there comes a time when you have to take voluntary or involuntary breaks from training. Whether it’s an injury, a vacation, a bad case of flu, work commitments or simply taking time off, getting back to training after a break is never an easy task. There are physical as well as psychological difficulties to overcome that may seem intimidating.
I was out from training the past 5 weeks due a rib injury. This was not the first occasion where I had to take a hiatus from training due to injuries, so I was well aware of the challenges of returning to train at the gym. Thanks to the experience from previous episodes, I was much better prepared for it this time round. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but it’s definitely easier when you are prepared.
How to Get Back into Training After An Extended Break
Obviously, the longer you have been away from training, the harder it is going to be to start training again. If you make efforts to stay physically active during this period, transitioning back to your previous training regime will be less arduous. Here are some important points to take note:
The first thing you are going to notice when you head back to the gym, especially if you have been slacking during this whole hiatus, is how badly your cardio fitness has deteriorated from not training. Heck, even a 5-minute warming up routine can leave you panting like a dog.
On most of my injury breaks, I make it a point to go for light runs as soon as it is physically possible. And at least a week before I head back, I do sprint training every other day. Sprint training is one of the best and quickest way to boost not just cardiovascular fitness, but also muscular endurance, which is another key physical attribute critical for Muay Thai.
So if possible, doing cardio exercises on a regular basis during this off period can ease the transition back to Muay Thai training. Other alternatives to running you can consider includes stair climbing and swimming, just to make working out less monotonous. Important point is to stay active.
The other physical challenge, is your muscular strength and endurance. Without a strengthening program in place during this off period, you can’t help but lose a fair amount of muscles. Weight lifting presents a higher risk of aggravating injuries. Calisthenics (bodyweight) training is a safer but equally effective option.
If you have been out of action due to injuries, do not turn into a couch potato. There is always some form of bodyweight training that you can work on while you give those injured body parts a rest. If there’s an injury in your lower body, you can get away with an upper body workout and vice versa. For example, you can do lower limb exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises etc. when you have an upper body injury. For lower limb injuries, you can work on pull-ups, dips, planks, etc. Just take care to not over do it and worsen your condition.
Just Do It
Don’t procrastinate: the longer you wait to return to train, the harder it gets. Remember when you were a total Muay Thai noob and how you felt slaughtered after each session but yet how much you enjoyed it? The psychological challenge is real. Maybe you are afraid of looking bad in front of your trainers, your peers or the newbies. The fact is, you are your biggest and only critic. If you can do it when you were a total noob, reframe your mindset to that of a total noob and just train. Be mentally prepared to gas out, but you will be back to your former glory self, so long as you make a point to start somewhere.
You should avoid ramping up your training frequency too quickly. After weeks or months of no training, revving up to your old routine of training 6 days a week can result in overtraining. Your body needs time to readjust and get use to the toughness of Muay Thai training all over again.
Give yourself time to warm up to the game first. Get accustomed to kicking the heavy bags before you start slamming with full force. Remember to focus on your techniques since poor form can lead to unnecessary injuries. It may be tempting to go your hardest when your peers are kicking like a boss, but at this stage, you definitely do not want to risk injury (again).
You might also want to skip sparring for the time being, certainly if you have just recovered from injuries. And if you just can’t help it, make sure that your sparring partners are aware of your situation. Many times, we rush back to train even though we are not fully recovered. Let your trainers know too, as they can some time go hard during padwork with their teeps or kicks. It’s better to play safe.
It may take a week, or two, before you find yourself getting back into the groove of training. You may continue to gas out, or your padwork flow can be shit. Just be kind and patient towards yourself. It is going to take time to condition your body for the austerity of Muay Thai. Your body will ache the day after training, you might get bruises, but if you push and punish your body too hard, it can have adverse effects. Start by training 3 times a week, then gradually up the frequency. Train hard, but listen to your body. As the white rabbit said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get”. Wise words.
Nobody say it was going to be easy. But “easy” was not why you signed up to train Muay Thai in the first place. After your first session back at training, you will certainly remember why you love Muay Thai so much: your gym mates, your friendly Krus, the endorphin rush, and even the gym’s signature fragrance. It sure is nice to be back.