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Thursday, February 10th, 2011

One of the key components of constructing an effective training program is getting the timing down right. Most fitness programs focus largely on when to exercise – how many times a week, for how long, and how intense. You might start the week with weight training, do laps in the pool mid-week, then finish with a yoga session or a run. The concept of taking a break gets relegated to the back burner with a dismissive wave – Sundays off. There’s very little focus on when you should relax during your training program, but you’re missing the secret ingredient to fitness success if you ignore this key aspect.

Effective training is a combination of properly timed exercise and appropriate relaxation. Chronic injuries or stress injuries result from over training or exercising with giving any focus to recuperating. In fact, the next time you schedule your exercise sessions, consider working in your relaxation sessions as well.

When I worked with Cirque du Soleil, we had the opportunity to schedule weekly massages. They were short 20-30 minute massages, but nearly everyone in the cast took advantage of this offer. It was built into the weekly training requirements – a dedicated opportunity to relax and work out stressed body parts before they gave out. Being a performer with a high profile company like Cirque du Soleil meant that I had to keep my body in top running condition, which made me think of health from all angles.

Optimal health is not just about how fast, how far, or how long you can push your body. It’s about speed of recovery time as well, and how long you can last without sustaining an injury. Do you know someone who works out really, really hard, but then gets hurt all the time also? Is he constantly focused on how many workouts he can get in week, or even a day, and seems to run on caffeine? This is a solid recipe for the training blues. Train hard, train fast, fall hard, fall fast. Injuries catch up in no time.

Your most effective training program is the one which allows you to train consistently for the rest of your life. Unless you are paid to be an athlete or your career is entirely dependent on your physical capacity, like I was when I was a performer, then there’s probably very little requirement for you to push your body 100% for a sustained period of time. You might want to push hard – for a week or two – but then settle back into a program that focuses on longevity and quality of health, versus quick, impressive, immediate results.

Even when I performed full time, I’d put even more emphasis on getting massages, body work, pampered at spas. Not only did it feel good, but it helped my body relax, thus avoiding chronic injuries. It helped me keep doing what I was doing, and that was a good thing, because that was how I made my money!

Regardless of your level of fitness, make sure you incorporate relaxation sessions into your weekly program. As I write this blog, I’m sitting in my AcuTouch® 9500 by Human Touch® because this week’s round of training for me has been particularly intense. Tomorrow I’m getting a full body massage.

Make as much effort to recognize and act on your need for relaxation, as much you focus on losing pounds, building mass, or increasing endurance. It’s a highly overlooked and under praised habit to develop in this fast-paced, type A, driven society. You almost look weak if you make a big deal about getting massages. Not so – the best athletes I’ve known all have highly regimented massage and body work sessions built right into their training schedules. There’s no oversight, no missing a body work session, and it is a big deal. So, construct your training around a goal for longevity and make use of your Human Touch chairs by scheduling weekly sessions in your chair. Make it as important as your workout – don’t let other people interfere with your time, don’t miss it, and don’t cut yourself short by relaxing for 10 minutes instead of 30. Bring balance to your training by scheduling both your workouts and your relaxation sessions every week.

Alvin Tam

“Being a Soul Acrobat is about learning to train your body and mind." Alvin Tam - Founder, Acrofit - Precision Training, Basic Acrobatics, Handstands and More