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Is Deloading Important?

Posted by Jason Kivett, Head Coach at Summit:

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you feel like you need to push through a physical barrier in order to overcome. Overcome what? My old self? A less adequate version of myself? What I’ve come to realize is, unfortunately, I’m not an Olympic athlete. I’m not even a competitive athlete. I’m training to be capable and to be 70 years old and still living my best life. This requires me to rest and give my body time to heal – in short, it means I need to take a deload week. In fact, if I really want to see the improvements from all the hard work I put in at the gym, the deload week is absolutely necessary.

What is a deload week?

A deload week is simply a period of time during which you drop your intensity during workouts. It is not you sitting at home on your couch with potato chips and ice cream. In fact, sitting and doing nothing during a deload week is one of the worst things you can do – whether you’re training like I am to have a full life or training for peak performance in CrossFit.

How to drop the intensity is generally the question people ask at this point when I talk to them about deloading. Intensity is measured in three ways:

  • Volume
  • Frequency
  • Weight

For example, if you normally come to class five or six times per week, do all the workouts with the prescribed weight load, and stay after to do abs and cardio on some days your deload may look like this:

  • Volume: skip the abs and cardio (or other accessory work) for the week
  • Frequency: instead of five days of workouts, come to three days of workouts and come into the gym to work on mobility the other two days – or stay home to do this instead
  • Weight: reduce the weight you lift to no more than 70% of your normal weight used

No athlete is exactly the same, so you should definitely speak with your coach about how to do your specific deload, but this is a good template from which to start.

 How often do you need a deload?

Deloading is way overlooked and way underdone by most people. Like I said above, you should work with your coach to know when to deload. At the gym, it is our job to provide everyone with an awesome, challenging, fun workout each day – so just following class program is going to mean you do not have a deload period.

For some athletes, you may be using the gym as a mental health exercise, and the feeling of really pushing yourself is your medicine. Are you overtrained? Almost certainly. Is it needed for your overall health? Almost certainly. Keep at it. This is why having a coach and an individual relationship with that coach is so important.

However, if you are looking to really improve your fitness, incorporating a deload into your plan is important. The general recommendation I like to give people is every three to five weeks for a deload. This range is impacted largely by the following inputs:

  • Normal workout volume – are you doing multiple workouts in a day, working at an extremely active job, or training for a competition on top of CrossFit class?
  • How old are you? Age impacts recovery which necessitates deload weeks.
  • What are your stress levels?
  • Do you have a recovery protocol you follow?
  • How are your energy levels day to day?
  • What is your sleep habit?
  • How is your nutrition?

In short, there are a BUNCH of factors which play a role in when and how often you should deload. To beat the drum some more, talk to your coach.

Focus on other areas of your life during the deload.

I get it – I love to be in the gym. I love to workout and feel like I’m getting better. Deload weeks can sometimes feel like a step in the wrong direction. First of all, as you’ve read, they are the complete opposite. Second, look at your deload week as a chance to grow in other areas of your life. When you’re really investing into your physical health and fitness, you may be making some sacrifices along the way. Perhaps you haven’t tried that new restaurant because you’re committed to a macros plan and really want to know that what you’re putting into your body is the right thing. This is a great time to try that place out! Spend more time with your friends and family. Read the book you’ve been eyeing. Simply lower your stress levels across the board. Then come back to your CrossFit gym ready to take on the world.

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