Did you know that you can reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts and nutrition habits by two thirds and still stay in shape?
It’s actually one of the foundational principles of personal training-
Now before you click away-
I know you are probably not reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body you have.
You are reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body that Beyonce has.
But let me tell you why maintenance is actually part of the process – why the bridge between you and Beyonce must involve maintenance phases.
But first – two things:
- Maintenance is not quite the same thing as a plateau. For the difference, go here.
- If the thought of decreasing your workout volume and intensity makes you freak out a bit because you are scared you will get fat or depressed, go here to learn how to NOT exercise.
So here’s how it works:
- When you first lose weight (or get stronger or whatever your intention is), you will probably have a good amount of success relatively quickly.
- Then, your body will hold in a maintenance phase for a little while and adjust to the new metabolic needs.
- During this phase, you won’t have to work as hard as you did when you were actively trying to get better.
- Then you can adjust your program/ increase your effort and you will lose a bit more weight (but not as much as the first time).
- And your second maintenance phase will be longer as your body again adjusts to the new metabolic rate.
And so the pattern continues until you reach your stable weight/fitness level.
Which is a GOOD thing.
A couple of things to notice about ^^ this amazing image ^^that will have you lining up to hire me as your graphic designer:
- The lines are wiggly because NONE of this happens in a linear way. You have ups and downs – daily, weekly, monthly (especially monthly. Ladies, amiright?)
2.The weight loss (or strength increase) will get less dramatic and the maintenance phase will get longer with each phase. Don’t spend your life – and blow out your knees – chasing that initial weight loss success and the resulting compliment onslaught.
(seriously. This is like trying to chase the high you got the first time you fell in love or heard Hit Me Baby One More Time. There are some things you just can’t repeat.)
So – how do you pull off a maintenance phase that prepares your body and mind for the next cycle of kicking ass?
Can you just drink beer and eat hot dogs for a bit and then get your shit together when you are ready?
Nah man. You’ve got to practice ACTIVE RECOVERY.
Active recovery is when you do things that actively promote the recovery of your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and prepare it for the next increase in effort.
Think about the active recovery you do during your workout. Let’s say you are lucky enough to be doing a burpee tabata (so, 20 secs of burpees followed by 10 secs recovery x 8).
So you do your 20 secs of burpees – and then in the 10 secs of rest, do you sit down and drink beer and eat hot dogs?
No. Because then your next 20 secs of burpees would be barfy hell.
What you do during that 10 seconds of rest is walk around and swear and take deep breaths and grab some water.
THAT is Active Recovery.
Same thing goes with your weekly cycle. Let’s say you workout every other day.
On your active recovery days, you don’t sit on your ass. That’s called sitting on your ass.
^^^fig. 1: NOT Active Recovery^^^
During your active recovery day you do basically the same thing as your active recovery ten seconds during your workout:
Take deep breaths
drink lots of water
(swearing is optional but I’m usually a fan).
And now let’s pull the camera back even further and talk about the cycle of the year.
There are months where you will naturally feel an energetic push to take things to the next level (like January, May and September for most of us)
And there are months when it’s time to relax a bit, practice maintenance and active recovery (like August, December).
If you are enjoying a Maintenance Month, here’s how to do it properly:
Reduce volume and intensity of workouts but don’t just stop moving:
- If you are used to 5 workouts a week, you can probably scale back to 3 without seeing a noticeable decrease in your fitness.
- Or if you are used to hour long workouts every day, you could do 20 min workouts.
- Or if you are used to doing Crossfit, try more swimming, hiking and yoga.
It’s pretty much NEVER recommended to sit on your ass. Our bodies were meant to move and ass sitting won’t help prepare you for the next step.
Sleeeeeeep like your life depends on it:
Because it kind of does. More about that here.
Drink tons of water:
Water is great at helping you eliminate waste products and combat the dehydration most of us have from too much coffee and booze (or, to use trendier language, ‘flush out toxins’)
You can chill a bit on your nutrition but don’t eat like a total asshole
The best way to rest and recover your physical body would be to continue to feed it well with lean protein and veggies and whole grains, etc.
But most of my clients need a mental break from the ‘rules’ as much as their bodies need a workout break.
If that is you, this is how I’d recommend relaxing the nutrition rules:
- If you normally eat a really healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner – maybe you could relax dinner a bit but stay on target for breakfast and lunch.
- If you normally measure out your food or count calories or macros, drop it and just eyeball your portions to make sure they are within reason.
- If you normally try to eat healthy ALL THE TIME, maybe you relax it to ‘I eat healthy when I am cooking for myself, but when I’m a guest, I will just eat what’s being served and limit my portions of stuff that makes me feel like butt.’
And this is the best part about Maintenance phases – they are a chance for you to ditch the rules and the effort a bit and focus more on intuitive movement and eating and experiment with what actually makes you FEEL GOOD.
And of course, feeling good RIGHT NOW is the whole point – not when you’ve hit your goal weight.
And if you get antsy during your maintenance phases, remember that they are practice for when you hit – and maintain- your perfect weight/fitness level.
Happy maintaining! x
Are you in maintenance right now? Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going?