Updated: Feb 21, 2019
I often get asked (in somewhat guilty tones sometimes) about whether it is a good idea during the summer to take time out from the gym.
To which I always say ‘Yes!’
Gym culture can be a strange thing sometimes. With its characteristics of goal-setting or weight taking and its constant pushing, pushing, pushing to greater strength and fitness it can at times take on the appearance of a workout prison.
Or at least a kind of exercise community service.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as I believe that goals, targets and focus are all good things. When managed effectively and balanced sensibly with the other responsibilities in our lives they can also have a positive role to play in building a sustainable workout programme.
The problem is that if a fitness regime starts to get out of control it can become both unhelpful and (dare I say it) boring. And when it reaches that point we all know how it feels; punishing, exhausting and miserable.
Or, to put it in other words, it can get to be fatiguing.
Which is why the summer season can be so helpful for recharging the batteries and stimulating the brain with new sights, sounds and experiences. Plus there can also be the added bonus of sunning or showing off the body that has been honed over the preceding months in the gym whilst taking a break from dietary rigour.
I tend to find that when I take a break and return to the gym I do so with renewed attack and vigour. The mountain is then ready to be climbed with a fresh sense of optimism and energy, whilst the gym itself can take on a new (or at least a refreshed) appearance.
Training in the gym can of course drag you down, as is not an apparently natural thing to do. It is not natural for human beings to lock themselves up and lift dumbbells and barbells on a regular basis, for example. However, though it may not feel natural it is worth bearing in mind that to so exercise is useful. Our contemporary way of life (for many of us anyway) in a de-industrialised society increasingly dominated by service sector employment can result in us being less active.
Which means that those of us so affected need the gym because, as I have argued previously, against such a backdrop fitness is in itself a good medicine.
Holidays provide a perfect opportunity to experience a social contrast against this kind of fitness routine, as they are an opportunity to see new things, or to meet someone who has never gone to a gym but who looks great and lives a healthy lifestyle. You can have a conversation about that person’s way of living and learn something new, or possibly read a book to stimulate the imagination - all miles away from the gym routine that is usually a key part of your life.
For me holidays are also a time for discovery. They are welcome opportunities to relax and be a different version of oneself, and because of that they are essential to my overall health. I often visit my parents in France, and when I do I enjoy the smell of the sea, the appearance of the trees, or I walk in the local vineyards. It just make me happy to be surrounded by nature when I take time out for such visits.
So I hope you can find a place that you like to escape to and that makes you feel happy and free when you holiday there. If you can take my advice, and if you are considering packing a bag and taking off for a few days (or indeed a few weeks in the sun) but continue to be troubled by a vague sense of guilt at stepping away from your workout, my advice is to let go of the tension and to pack that bag.
The gym will always be waiting for you on your return and your mind and body will thank you for the chance to rest and recuperate (which is, as I have stated in previous blog posts, as important to an effective workout as technique and healthy eating).
So pack the bag and head for the beach, or city break, or whatever rings your vacation bell and enjoy the sun.
Happy (summer) holidays!