Slow start after long breaks

With 15+ years of history CARISMA has trained thousands of people which joined us, trained with us for some time and then, for various reasons, left us. It happens once in a while that somebody who left months or years before decides to come back which is always appreciated from our side.

I decided to write this post about prescribing a slow start for people who rejoin a martial arts club in general, CARISMA specifically. It was inspired by four former members of our club that during the last year have decided to re-join us and, not following my suggestions, gave up within a few weeks. The idea of slow start after long breaks is something that everybody should apply, whether you have been on a long holiday, took a sabbatical or moved temporarily away from training.

Let’s start from the beginning of someone’s training history, which might be similar to yours; you were feeling unfit or looking for a new challenge and decided to join our club. At CARISMA we welcome beginners from all walks of life, within a very broad range of ages and backgrounds. The majority of people joining us are not as fit as they would like; most of them are not as fit as they should be in order to perform at our average level of expected speed, power and accuracy. Upon joining most people experience a more or less steady progress toward fitness and proficiency which may be eventually reaching a peak or a plateau within a few years.

At that point you feel nicely fit, able to perform most exercises without struggling too much; if you are never struggling you are not pushing hard enough. Some training might be more challenging on power, others on endurance; others might push your skills to their limit. I hope it sounds familiar because that’s the way our training regime is designed to deliver. A continuous challenge that explorers all aspects of training martial arts, with the aim of creating a well round martial artist.

Imagine now that for some reason you stop training martial arts; if you are reasonably active person you might keep running, swimming, cycling or going to the gym. Your physical and cardiovascular fitness perhaps doesn’t drop that much and you still feel you can go back and pick up your martial arts training where you left it; here is where disappointment starts, for three main reasons:

  • Your mind still remembers pretty well most moves as they should be performed. Your muscles might have lost some reactivity or that level of flexibility which allowed you to block a fast attack, punch somebody and surprise them or kick to someone’s head.
  • Some of the people you still know at the club have progressed a great deal; some of them were just beginners when you left a year or so ago and now they are fit, fast and wining fights. You were used to nearly play with them, now they do the same with you and that’s very frustrating.
  • The two above reasons cause you to get hit more than you were used to and when you get hit it hurts more than you remember. That escalates de-motivation and often causes people to leave within weeks.

The simple solution to the problems described above is to manage your expectations and adopt the “slow start after long breaks” approach that is far from super scientific but it helps to avoid the above described situations.

Never mind you were an intermediate or a black belt: accept it will take some time to get back into shape by following these rules:

  • Give yourself 4-8 weeks; during that period you will accept your performance will be suboptimal
  • Approach each exercise at 50%-70% expected performance; don’t even try to achieve full 100% so you won’t be disappointed by the fact that you cannot
  • If you are training with partners try to find people which are either less experienced than you, lighter than you or both; training with them will not push you beyond a threshold that will show your reduced performance

Depending on your specific genetics you might catch up in a shorter time or perhaps a bit longer but managing your expectations and be realistic with your achievements will help you to get back in shape and keep enjoying your training.

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