| David Gane
De-loading is a technique used in weightlifting where you reduce the volume or intensity of your workouts. The purpose is to allow your body to recover and prepare for further gains.
When you lifts weights heavier than your body is accustomed to, you are not only working the muscles, but also the joints, tendons, ligaments, and central nervous system. This creates stress and fatigue on your body, which can lead to injury, poor form, plateauing, and in the worst cases, stalling out or giving up completely.
De-loading mitigates this by cutting your workout back by usually about 10%, so that you can work your way back up, and (hopefully) past your highest point.
The other time de-loading can be used is after an extended break, whether it is a week or two (or even a month). Since your body hasn't had the regular maintenance of a workout, a reduction in volume or intensity can help reduce soreness and the risk of injury.
De-loading with Writing (and everything else)
Of course, like everything I encounter, I always connected the concept back to writing. However, I can also see how this can apply to other activities. This notion can work in a variety of ways:
Scenario #1: Return after a break
This one works best when returning to an activity that you haven't worked in for a very long time.
After a long break, writing can be difficult to get back into. The easy flow of the language and ideas needs to be primed and the endurance required for long hours of writing needs to built back.
By accepting the idea of de-loading, you can ease your way back into your schedule of work. More importantly though, by reminding yourself that returning to the quantity and quality that you left your work takes time, it is easier not to beat yourself up over things.
Scenario #2: Forcing a break
I would apply this one in cases where you've been working steady for a long period time at a very high level. This amount could be the quantity of hours invested or the quality of the work within those hours.
While its good to be busy and productive, it is prone to leading to other complications such as unhealthy stress or an imbalance in the many roles in your life. It isn't until you are already far done this path that you're feeling sick spiritually, mentally, or physically.
By de-loading prior to this situation arising, you have the potential to mitigate the effects that could lead to things far worse than lost productivity.
Scenario #3: Gearing Down
I think of the designer Stefan Sagmeister when I think of this scenario. Every seven, he closes his business to take a yearlong sabbatical. During this time, he restores his creative spirit, finding fresh inspiration in the world around him.
Often in creative scenarios, we draw from the same personal history, dreams, or ideas regularly. If we go to this well too many times, what comes out of the bucket can get a little stale, or worse, non-existent.
While you don't need to step completely away like Sagmeister, you can de-load the amount of work, and fill that reclaimed time to draw new insight from the world around you.
Scenario #4: Vacation Time
The last scenario focuses on the issue I experienced while travelling.
Although yesterday I talked about work and writing, I had to de-load from exercising as well. While it had seemed frustrating to go backwards, it actually turned into a positive.
I had been bumping up against accumulated fatigue, where my body was just exhausted in general, even with two day break in between. While I was lifting heavier than I had ever been used to, my enjoyment of working out was beginning to wane. I didn't want to admit it to the facts, but the forced de-load ended up helping me to renew my energy for the next workout.
All About the Writing
When writing, especially when trying to hit a deadline, I think stepping back from the work for a week or two is healthy.
Then, when its time to return to the desk, it is sometimes better to slowly build back up to your optimum levels, instead of forcing yourself into a crash and burn.
However, it is also important to allow yourself the chance to de-load, especially when there is that underlying feeling of fatigue setting in.
Back to You
The goal is always to do more, get better, and be more productive. But sometimes we need to know when to take a step back and regain some strength before moving ahead.