The ‘de-load’ and our pain
Check into any reasonable strength training program, it’ll most likely include the concept or practice of a de-load. A de-load being a period of rest/easing off/lowering your intensity and volume and basically just taking it easier after a period of escalating demands of training. A standard de-load may come after 3-4 weeks of progressively more difficult, yet manageable training of which you reach a theoretical “peak” of training demand and/or capacity and thus now need to recuperate by lowering the training demand/difficulty.This is supposed to be the stress-recovery-adaptation cycle in real-life application. We stress the system for an acceptable while, we then allow recovery and thus the system adapts and becomes stronger before we go about stressing and overloading it again. Rinse and repeat.
Some say that due to life’s ever fluid circumstances, de-load occurs by nature, thus the scheduling of one can be somewhat redundant. I.e. we don’t make it to the gym or to train or whatever as consistently and robotically as would theoretically require a scheduled de-load, thus we naturally get a periodical “de-stress” of the system. In other words - life is fucked up enough and that life will provide enough obstacles to our training that the deload days and weeks are almost “built-in” to life. The order of missed sessions, quick-workouts or whatever that usually happens with any well intentioned routine will make up for enough changing of pace that we automatically get the de-load. Does this make sense?
This all can be very true, not all of us are fortunate enough to have zero distractions, obligations and responsibilities. Leave that to the athletes of socialist type nations and sporting organisations of China and Russia, where the athletes sole responsibility in life is to train and compete - and that’s it… If you fancy that way of life as being fortunate. Regardless, I remember reading about the former USSR athletes and throughout their off-season, even these guys and gals knew how to take time off. They really understood and knew how to de-load. Breaking it down, they hiked, swam, slept, ate, gained fat weight, drank beer, walked, jogged, played volleyball, skied, watched movies, did all types of activities of fun and self-interest and just generally kept their bodies slightly busy as well as their minds refreshed and off the demands of training before having to go back strong and more ready to the hell of training and competing (.. if you’re versed on any of the russian methods of training, yes, it is hell).
They wouldn’t go near a barbell, they only squatted to shit and cleaning meant actually cleaning their room and house.
Why is this relevant to anything and why am I talking about this? After stumbling across a great little blog about a person recuperating from chronic pain issues, it illustrated how they managed and got through it by rediscovering old passions, activities as well as finding new ones. Photography was a major part in this recuperation process. This person, it seemed, was going down the usual path and found themselves down the standard rabbit-hole of clinically overbearing treatment and inconclusive “interventions”. The stress that this normal process can give people and the peripheral issues it can entail almost always can bring that person systemically into a place of strain and alarm, particularly when it comes to dealing with inconclusive chronic pain. In other words - going through the slog of treatment and so forth, combined with the hectic demands of life that our current system demands of us just obliterates any opportunity for joyful activities of self-interest and relaxation… Thus denying as any natural “de-load”. And no I’m not talking about de-load in context of Olympic weight-lifting now. I’m talking about deload from life and it’s now bullshit demands.
Average Jane and Joe in western culture don’t get to hike, eat, sleep, gain fat weight, play volleyball, drink beer, go jogging, watch movies. No they have to work overtime, have gig-economy second jobs, chase more highly demanding children and provide for their child’s more exorbitant lifestyles, pay 4 times their lifetime earning capacity for a home within a decent proximity to a school, eat avocados everyday and appear to have it all on instagram. Average Jane and Joe aren’t afforded the luxury to just generally be leisurely unless all these activities are partaken in binge fashion, which is not ideal either. Any stress, whether it’s a “work-type” stress or a “relax-type” stress doesn’t go down too well if it’s bought on hard and fast, like any bingeing behaviour. It needs to be tapered in and taken slowly. This is not how society seems to work for Average Jane and Joe in western life nowadays.
Anyways… Back to pain. This person, featured in the blog were able to significantly help curtail their pain by curtailing the stress and demands of “real-life” by reconnecting to the joy, the leisure and appropriately shutting down the bulllshit of the crazy demands they had accumulated.
Somewhere along the line in life, we became so infatuated with “grinding”.. This could be equated with “training” as a metaphor also. We became so enamored with the idea of no pain, no gain - in life as well as the gym. We came to believe that an easy day is a wasted day, that sleep is the enemy, that play is stupid, that stress is good and that joy will be for another day… We lost our way and our systems, our bodies, our minds cannot cope.
“Grinding”, like training is by nature a stress that accumulates but must be accounted for by regular intervals of de-loading. De-stressing the system, taking it easy and being leisurely in order to come back stronger and thus keep going. We know how to grind because our lives (or more like, our external obligations) demand it of us, but we forgot how to de-load, because we devalued our actual lives (and our internal needs) moreso.
Signing off xx