On deloading during fall break (or vacations from discipline)

Fall break broke a lot. A 10mo routine of posting M&MWOD posts, half a year of following a specific weightlifting program, and my meditation habit.

The week between Course One (Cancer Biology) and Course Two (Neurology) in medical school is called Fall Break—nine days of no classes which recharges and reboots the MS1 in preparation for the next two months of nonstop coursework. Lots of folks travel home, I stayed in Tampa for the week.

My goal? To relax and deload my discipline.

Within strength training and most athletic endeavors, the concept of progressive and periodized training reigns supreme. Slowly increase weight, speed, or volume over the first three weeks of a month, which stresses the body and forces adaptation (progression), and then let off the gas pedal a bit for the final week, or the deload, to allow the body to recuperate and be ready for the next month of training (periodization).

When training picks up after deloading, things are a bit easier than the final week of progressive training, but harder than the first. Think three steps forward, one step back. This irons out any nagging aches and pains before they become injuries, takes the metabolic stress off the athlete, and also focuses on the long game—rather than trying to achieve a training goal as fast as possible, this approach attempts to get there as healthily as possible.

Applying this concept to behavior: Course One represented progressive loading on my discipline. Maintaining habits and routines requires a certain amount of self-discipline or grit, which can be built up over time just like a muscle. During especially stressful points in our lives, we can tell the strength of these habits and the measure of our discipline—do we still go on walks? Still call our parents every week? Still do yoga everyday?

I’ve accumulated a number of routines over the past year: MWF updates of M&MWOD (since 11/2014), practicing and training for the olympic lifts three sessions per week (since 2/2015), writing this weekly reflection (since 7/2015), dream-journaling every morning (since 3/2015), and meditating daily (since 10/2014).

Throughout Course One, despite the highs and lows, I maintained all of my major routines and practices. This was my progressive loading—keeping things going through the wild muck of life strengthened my self-accountability.

Now, during fall break, I’m deloading in preparation for the next cycle of mental training (Course Two). An overall relaxation of responsibilities: I’m not expending any energy to keep up my M&MWOD posts, I haven’t trained in almost two weeks, and I’m meditating when it strikes me.

Loosening my mental grip allows me to determine what routines are truly important and what habits can be dropped. When caught up in the everyday grind, I found that I couldn’t really stop to evaluate why I am doing something. On a day-to-day basis, this evaluation would cause friction and the requisite mental energy could be better spent simply executing the habit. With this deload, I can take a step back and look broadly at the routines that make up my life.

My conclusions?

Updating M&MWOD isn’t terribly important to me. I know there aren’t any consistent followers of this project, but it is an excellent practice in discipline. I think I’ll ride out the MWF updates until I hit a year. I like these reflections, and will likely continue throughout medical school—maybe I’ll rename the project.

I don’t need to continue following this olympic weightlifting program. I began this program while coaching in NH and before I got into med school; my life had a different trajectory back then. Knee-deep in coursework, I cannot justify the invested time and energy anymore. I am no longer training to be a competitive olympic weightlifter. Sticking to 2hr-long lift sessions three times a week took an enormous amount of discipline, especially while studying for exams. Additionally, I missed out on some cool activities because I planned Tuesday as a rest day and didn’t want to interfere with my oly training. Moving forward, I will train for the sake of a broad movement practice—this mental shift in focus allows me more flexibility to go out and try new sports, activities, and movement styles.

I’m writing this post on Sunday (10/11/2015), the same day I’ll post it. I might go through a few drafts of this before posting. Maybe not. Back on the grind tomorrow and I’m feeling ready for it—loose, hungry, and prepared to get back.

5 thoughts on “On deloading during fall break (or vacations from discipline)

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