Ye Olde Friday Flexe, or: The Goode Knight’s Quest to Attain the Sword of Fitness, and How to Keep It Sharpe Thereafter

Hello Lumosians!

We’re deep into the devil dog days of summer here in Austin (normally these would just be dog days, but the heat makes them puppies infernal.) Summer at the gym means lots of people taking breaks- it’s prime travel time and it’s normal for us to have a bunch of folks away at any given time. People are often worried that they will lose their progress while they are away, which is a legitimate concern, but usually not as dire as people think.

Over the years I’ve developed a pattern of thought about breaks in your fitness journey. And since I love a good analogy (the more abstract, strained, and confusing the better) and I am a well known fantasy/medieval history nerd, I present to you:

The Goode Knight’s Quest to Attain the Sword of Fitness, and How to Keep It Sharpe Thereafter

We start our fitness journey as a defenseless squire in a dangerous world, bereft of the protection of elite fitness to sustain us. Upon beginning our toils, we are gifted a small blade, a dagger called Fitness, and with it we begin our journey.

As we toil along, we can do two things to improve upon our humble blade. Firstly, we can keep the blade very sharp by consistently working on our fitness- each day in the gym is a sharpening session, and we leave with our blade honed and keen. Even a small knife can be dangerous when consistently attended to and wielded by a brave fitnesser with pure intentions.

Over time, we can smelt, add, forge, reshape, and harden our blade- effectively making our humble pocketknife bigger and stronger. This task is done over months and years of consistency, building what the modern world calls training age- simply the total time we have spent in the gym. Over time, we will wield a formidable greatsword, a big honking bastard that we swing with both hands.

In a fantasy world, our sword would be both big and sharp- the better to slay the dragons that life throws our way. Sadly, we live very much in the real world, and in this banal existence, we must fight with what’s at hand. To wit:

If we have trained a long time, and have built a fearsome greatsword, some time away from the gym will not affect us too much. Even if our trusty blade Fitness is less than optimally sharp, it’s still freakin’ big and it will still pack a wallop. Once we get back to the gym, a few quick passes of a whetstone (be it barbell, bike, or burpee) will get it honed to a vicious gleam.

If we are just beginning our fitness quest, the sharpness of our blade is paramount! We haven’t had time to adequately gird it, so keeping it razor keen is everything. A few days or a week away won’t be critical (we couldn’t be errant knights if we never…erred), but long breaks of multiple weeks or months will leave us with a stubby butter knife with which to defend ourselves against the always fearsome dragons we call Entropy, Disease, and Malaise. 

Ok, in plain speak: if you have been training a long time you can often afford to take a week, or two, or even more off. You have built a broad fitness base that will sustain you, and often a little time away is just enough to let some nagging aches or weird movement patterns subside, and come back the better for it. If we are newer to training, especially if we have made great gains in a short time, an extended period away will be much more impactful, and we might feel “back to square one” when we return.

I hope you enjoyed this long and winding analogous tale, and thank you for allowing me to let my inner nerd stretch his literary legs. Back to our normal, real world, Friday Flexes next week.