We know that athletes should take deload weeks from their training, so why shouldn’t fitness business owners take deload weeks from their business?
The benefits for an athlete don’t need any explanation. Recovery from the physical demands of their chosen discipline, a mental break from a single minded focus on improvement, the opportunity to debrief and digest a previous training cycle, and the opportunity to plan and set goals for upcoming training cycles.
But these benefits aren’t just required by athletes, but business owners too. Physical and mental recovery, performance reviews, and future planning, vital elements of improvement, no matter who you are.
School teachers have the right idea. Deloads are built into their occupation. Four terms, with a deload after each.
So what can we learn from athletes and teachers that can make our own businesses more successful?
In the end, the business should exist to improve our life in some way – otherwise, what’s the point? Sure, we need to have a sense of purpose, and a positive impact on the world, but there’s only so long those things alone will sustain you. Purpose and impact that drives you into the ground, negatively impacts your mental health, and leads to early burnout isn’t enough.
All too often, we can feel like we don’t own the business, but the business owns us. And this is where we can wrestle back some of that control.
Sure, our business needs to earn us money, but the money is just a means to an end. What we really earn is freedom and choice. The freedom to provide options, and the choice to choose the option that brings the most richness to our life.
While we’re being held hostage by our business, it’s easy to forget how much power and autonomy we actually do have to design a life of our choosing.
We have more freedom than we think.
Let’s zoom out for a moment and look at how you currently deload. You probably have a week or two off every year, around Christmas. That’s good. And if we zoom in, you probably have at least one day off on the weekends. Zooming even further, you might have a daily practice where you get to exercise, practice mindfulness, or even just crash on the couch.
So our mini ‘daily or weekly deloads’ are on point and our annual deload is ok too. But we miss the midpoint of the deload continuum – the monthly or quarterly recovery.
Here’s how I propose your design your deload weeks.
A week off every quarter would be an absolute game changer.
Personally, I have a deload week at the end of the first, second and third quarter of the calendar year, then two weeks over Christmas and new year.
The key here is to pre- plan your deload week. People make two mistakes which can derail the benefits. Firstly, they make the deload week a ’soft commitment’, something that they’d like to do, or know they should do, but then never actually get around to doing. And secondly, they take their deload week when they really feel like they need it – but by that point it’s too late. Just like an athlete taking a deload as a response to injury is too late, it’s too late when a business owner collapses into a stressed and burnt-out heap.
Deloads are as much about avoiding exhausting as they are about recovering from it, if not more.
So what should you do on a deload? Well that’s the beauty of it – anything you want. But I’ve got a few suggestions of what works well for me.
It’s the perfect time for a quarterly review and goal setting session. Firstly revisiting the successes or failures of your previous three months, and secondly planning for the next three. This is an opportunity for you to step back and take a 10,000 foot, birds eye view of your business – an opportunity to see the things that you can miss when you’re knee deep in daily operations.
But hang on – how is that a deload? You’re still working! Well yes, sort of. But a change is as good as a rest, and what you’re deloading from isn’t work per se, but the repetitive, incessant beat down that you can be subject to week after week, month after month.
Of course, the deload week is yours to do as you see fit, and you don’t need to think about work at all. It’s your time, and you’ve earned the right to spend it how you like.
What about your clients? As Fitness Professionals, we have a sense of obligation to our clients. After all, we’re a key player in their health.
Here’s a perfect opportunity to set an example. Show them that you walk the walk, and value the balance and the importance of recovery and deload. You wouldn’t work them into the ground every day with heavy deadlifts, so lead the way in demonstrating the benefits of cycling the intensities of life with deload weeks.
There’s also the question of lost income, especially for people who trade time for money in their fitness business. Two comments on that – firstly, what’s the point in working hard if you can never enjoy the fruits of your labour (what, you’re planning on waiting until retirement?!) and secondly, you may actually find that you more than make up for the lost income with your renewed productivity and the fresh new ideas you bring to the table. And it’s actually possible to earn a lot of money in less time than you think.
If you have high level of self awareness around how your behaviours impact your mental health, this is a perfect time to immerse yourself in those things that enrich and energise you.
Go for a long walk every day. Read fiction. Hang out at the beach. Eat breakfast in a cafe. Sleep in. Ride your bike. Reorganise your wardrobe. Plant veggies. Journal. Cook.
You’ll come out of it reenergised to jump back in to business with fresh perspectives and fresh motivation.