It’s hard to avoid talk of big goals and life-changing resolutions at the start of the year, and if the new year energy has you itching to work toward an ambitious fitness goal right now, that’s great.

But there’s an important truth that can get lost in the new year’s resolutions narrative: You don’t have to be chasing big goals all the time—in fact, it’s unsustainable for your mind and body. Taking some time off from focusing on fitness gains can set you up for more success in the future.

Just look at professional athletes, arguably the fittest humans in the world, who take several months of offseason every year to reset and recover. For Sydney Leroux and her fellow National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players, that time is now: While all the resolution-makers are hitting their new gym memberships hard, the soccer pros are in the midst of a much-needed break.

“You can’t go 24/7; your body needs rest.” —Sydney Leroux

For many of us, taking a break is easier said than done, though, especially if you’re trying to strike the balance of maintaining your fitness while allowing for enough recovery between workouts. Leroux, who is an Olympic gold medalist, a forward for Angel City FC, and a mom of two, has the offseason down to a science after 10 years in the NWSL—and her tips for staying motivated and healthy during her time off aren’t just for elite athletes.

Sydney Leroux’s 4 tips for offseason recovery

1. Create a routine

Let’s say you’re a runner who is often training for races. Taking an offseason—and suddenly not having a training plan that dictates your schedule—can throw your routine out of whack and make you feel untethered.

But just because you aren’t working toward a big goal doesn’t mean you don’t have a routine. In fact, Leroux says having one is key to keeping her focused during her offseason.

For her, this looks like alone time and coffee before her kids wake up, a smoothie for breakfast, taking the kids to school, a training session, a filling lunch, a lifting session, a protein shake (she’s a spokesperson for Optimum Nutrition and swears by the Double Rich Chocolate flavor), picking up the kids, then family dinner. (If training and lifting almost every day doesn’t sound like much of an offseason, just know that Leroux swears it’s a much lighter schedule than during her season.)

2. Aim for consistency, not perfection

Finding balance in an offseason period can be challenging: Are you doing too much, or not enough? How do you make time for rest and recovery when there are so many other obligations (work, family, social life) that don’t disappear when you take a break from chasing fitness goals?

“The most important thing to understand is that there’s no perfect balance and you just do the best you can,” says Leroux. Stressing yourself out about it negates the whole idea of taking an offseason, so focus on being consistent, she says, rather than whether you’re doing it exactly right. “When I’m consistent, I’m more motivated,” she says.

3. Set small, process-oriented goals

A fitness offseason is a time to give yourself a break from those big, results-oriented goals that drive you at other times of the year, whether that’s running a marathon PR, lifting heavier weights, or, in Leroux’s case, winning games and championships.

But you can still structure your time around smaller, process-oriented goals. Leroux’s, for instance, is getting enough protein every day to aid in her recovery, which usually looks like one of her go-to chocolate protein shakes after workouts.

If you’re a runner taking an offseason to prioritize recovery, a process goal could look as simple as going to a yoga or Pilates class twice a week to cross-train. Into weight-lifting and can feel your body asking for a break? Set a process goal like Leroux’s that’s focused on daily recovery, like staying hydrated or getting enough sleep.

4. Embrace the power of rest

If you’re someone who struggles to truly relax, it can be difficult to embrace resting for the sake of resting. So reframe it, suggests Leroux, as a necessary step to achieving your goals.

“When you want something or you’re working toward something, it can be hard to listen to your body,” she says. “But you can’t go 24/7; your body needs rest. Think of it as a reset—don’t think of it as stopping, think of it as giving yourself a break so you can come back stronger.”

Allowing your muscles to recover properly is a cornerstone of getting and staying fit, and without rest, you’ll be eating into your overall gains.

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