Using Maintenance Mode to Focus on a New Goal without Losing Your Gains

We’ve all got lots of different things we’re interested in, but it’s physically impossible to work on all of them at the same time. That’s when maintenance mode comes in handy.

In this episode, Ryan and Andy talk all about what maintenance mode is, why it’s important, and how to use it properly.

Here’s a snippet of what Ryan had to say on the matter:

If you’ve been focusing on something for a while, go into maintenance mode for a while and it WILL make you better.

Here’s what this episode covers:

(01:28) What is maintenance mode?(02:33) Andy’s favorite quote about priorities.(06:29) You’d be surprised how little you need to do to maintain a certain skill.(08:57) That whole riding a bike saying is really true – once you get a skill, your body will remember how to get it again.(12:41) Endurance, flexibility, strength, and motor control all have different needs for maintenance.(13:56) Even athletes go into maintenance mode.

Andy: Hey, hey, hey. Welcome to the GMB Show. Over the next 20 minutes plus or minus, we’re going to be talking about getting stronger, agile, healthier, fitter, for the things you actually give a damn about in a way that doesn’t suck.

My name is Andy. This dude’s name is Ryan and today we’re going to be talking about maintenance mode. Really what that is, it’s something that I think is probably really important for most people in your training. If you’re practicing anything for a long enough time, you’re going to have to put it on maintenance mode, some parts of it at least at some point. So we’re going to talk about what it is, why it’s important, how to do it.

Ryan: Sounds great. What’s up with you brother? How are you doing?

Andy: I’m doing great man.

Ryan: Good.

Andy: Just another lovely day in Hawaii.

Ryan: Yeah. Well, I’ve heard that it’s pretty rough living in Hawaii especially after watching all those Hawaii Five-O episodes.

Andy: Yeah.

Ryan: A lot of murders and stuff going on but the weather is nice.

Andy: Yeah.

Ryan: That’s good.

Andy: We’ve got a lot of crime. We’ve got a lot of crime.

Ryan: So let’s just get right into it, maintenance mode. This is something – I’m pretty happy that we’re talking about this. This isn’t something that we’ve talked too much about. We’ve hinted at it before but I think it’s good that we’re going to sit down and actually have a full episode on it.


Ryan: Maintenance mode can be misunderstood for a lot of different things and let’s be honest, it’s the beginning of the year. A lot of people have their goals for the year.

Andy: Yeah.

Ryan: Their New Year resolutions and for some people the New Year resolution list can take up a couple of pages and so beyond putting that aside the goal thing, looking at, “What do you do with all your stuff?” So if you have one goal, we like to think and just look at one goal. What do you do with the other stuff that you want to work on?

So today we’re going to talk a little bit about how to put things into maintenance mode in order to be able to keep continuing and focusing on your main goal.

Andy: Yeah. And I think you pretty much just gave it away is that – the basic principle is that at any given time you’ve got like a dozen things maybe that make up your complete life, right? But you can’t be actively trying to improve all of them at once.

We’ve mentioned on pretty much any other show episode my favorite quote that if you think you have more than two priorities, it’s like arms. You’re crazy. You don’t have more than two priorities.

So if you’re prioritizing one thing, well then something else probably has to go on the back burner. Well, that’s maintenance mode. How do you decide what goes into maintenance mode, how you keep something in maintenance mode without it completely falling off the cliff?


Ryan: Yeah, I will just kind of give an example of at least what we see, right? Of people and what they’re doing. So typically we have people that say I want to get – I’m going to just throw three things out there. I want to get – and I’m going to make these like really, really tough skills just to give an example. Let’s say they want the Planche. That’s a big one. Everyone wants that, right? They want the front lever and let’s say the iron cross. We will just throw that one out there. All right?

Andy: Now, think about that. Those are big skills, big, big, skills. Thing is, yes, if you had about eight hours a day to train, if you made sure that you had a massage therapist, maybe if you were a gymnast competing, a proper gymnast – we’re not gymnasts, remember? OK? But if you are like that, yeah. That’s probably something you would be working on, those three different things.

But let’s be honest. We’re not. We’re just – we’re people who have jobs and really training eight hours a day is something that I don’t really suggest anyway. So what do you do? First off, you got to pick one goal and that one major goal.

So let’s just look at the Planche. We will look at the Planche and have that as our major goal. That is the bulk of your training and so really all of your other training will fit around that Planche. So you will do your conditioning related to the Planche work and your warm-up stuff. Well, before the Planche, make sure that you’re stretching. It’s for the Planche so that you don’t get injured, blah, blah, blah.

But you also of course want to be working on the iron cross and you want to be working on the front lever. So how do you do it? That’s where not necessarily maintenance mode comes in and the reason I’m starting with this first is because I want everyone to understand that first, you’ve got to pick a main goal, that main goal.

Now the iron cross and the front lever will come later. So maybe you don’t want to hear this. People don’t want to hear this but that’s just something you got to put on the side for now.

The maintenance mode would be some of the stuff that you were working on before you decided to work on the iron cross, the Planche and the front lever.

So let’s say before all of this, you were working on your handstand. That was your major goal last time. What you can do is then take that handstand and continue working on it but it won’t be your priority skill. It goes like Andy said on the back burner. It’s not that you’re going to forget about it. It’s just you’re going to have it simmering over here and you can come back to it later to check on it. But you’re mainly focusing on your steak and making sure that it’s grilled properly because it’s the main thing.

Andy: Yeah. That’s really important. You have one main goal at a time.


Andy: Every time we talk about cycling and going from one goal to another goal, people say, well, if I was working on – am I going to lose my gains? If I was working on pull-ups before and now I start working on parallettes or something like that, am I going to lose all of my pull-up ability? Well, no. For one, you’re not going to magically stop being able to do pull-ups. I mean that’s just not how things work.

But the other one is that the pull-ups can now be on maintenance mode, right? If you can do say 10 pull-ups, right? And you don’t have to do pull-ups every day for multiple sets to keep 10 pull-ups up. You can do one set of pull-ups once a week and probably still could be able to keep 10 pull-ups.

So you can do a complete program that is focused on something else that has zero pull-ups in it. Maybe once a week you go to a bar and you do 10 pull-ups and say, “Yeah, I can still do it.” That’s maintenance mode. That’s one example. There are other ways.

Ryan: That’s a great example.

Andy: But that’s one example, right? So what this basically means is that this complements the idea of cycling, right? You can cycle from one goal, one program to another, keep going and keep moving and you don’t lose all the stuff you’ve done before.

You just keep that in maintenance mode. Put it on the back burner. Keep it simmering and then you taste the soup from time to time to make sure it’s still all right.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s it.

[Crosstalk] [0:07:16]

Ryan: It’s all about food, right? To give you an example of me right now, it might surprise some of you out there but handstands right now are not my main focus at all. I mean at all and in fact, I’m only doing handstands once a week. So you mentioned maybe you only have to do pull-ups once a week and well, right now, with my handstands, that’s the way it is.

So when I’m doing my handstands, I actually don’t have a specific goal or specific plan for me when I’m going to work on my handstands that day. Today is actually my handstand day but I like to call it more a hand balancing because all I want to do is make sure that I’m upside down.

So I might work on a little bit of line work but mainly it’s – I check to see where my one-arm handstand is. I might do a little bit more. If I’m feeling pretty good, yeah, I will do a little bit more. Maybe I will do a single-arm lever or something like that.

It’s just going back to check and to make sure that oh, it’s doing OK. Chances are it’s going to be pretty good. Why? Because you’re giving yourself a rest and so when you come back to it of course, it’s not going to be as perfect as it was maybe when you were working on it every single day. But you’re still going to have it. So even looking back –

Andy: And the other thing just to cut in very briefly, it’s also going to be good because you spent a lot of time developing it.

Ryan: Exactly.

Andy: And that time does not disappear. That effort does not disappear as soon as you take that off the front burner.

Ryan: Yeah. It’s – yeah, so many people talk – use this analogy about riding the bicycle. You spend so many time – so much time when you’re little learning how to ride a bike and then when you get older, maybe you haven’t been on a bicycle for a couple of years, you will still be able to ride it. In the very beginning, it might be a little shaky but right away, you will get back to it and I think that’s kind of – as far as skills, that’s what we’re looking at.

It’s not that you’ve forgotten and you have to start from the very beginning. You’ve spent so much time working on that one priority, your main thing, that your body knows what needs to happen when you come back to it again, so one-arm handstand.

Weights are really the same thing. If you spend a really long time working on your barbell squat and you have the form down and you work on increasing the poundage or kilos, whatever you’re working with, yeah, when you come back to it, you’re not going to be able to squat as much as you did before. But I’m willing to guarantee you that within a couple of weeks of going back on the program of squatting heavy, you’re going to be getting closer and surpass probably the numbers that you were at when that was your main priority last time.

Andy: So yeah, that’s really important to know is that just because something is on the back burner, it may fall off a little bit, right? It’s not going to be as hot, right? They fall off a little bit. But you can start from there. You’re not starting from zero again, right? If you want to pick that back up again, it’s pretty easy to then continue to raise that level and so I mentioned with programs that we cycle and things too. It might be rings or parallettes or floor or some other program or whatever. Same thing with weights.

If you spend a couple of months working focused on rings, you’re not going to lose your squatting ability, right? Your squat number will go down a little bit if you’re not practicing it as much. Of course. But you can put that in maintenance mode. Squat once a week and probably keep your same overall volume.

But not just for training programs but for anything that you are working on. I mean you can look at your physical attributes as well. You could look at it – like I’m going to focus on strength right now and not focus on flexibility as much, right?

So you might find that you’re stiff and achy and are in pain sometimes when you move. So you’re going to back off of some of your strength work, back off of some of your skill work maybe and focus on flexibility and really spend a little bit of time every day stretching the specific areas that you need, right?

So that would be how to focus on that and put your strength work in maintenance mode for a little bit while you work on flexibility. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re keeping it up a little bit from time to time, you won’t lose strength by focusing on flexibility.

So that’s one way to do it and to dive even deeper into that, same thing with stretching, right? Just stretching out your legs does not make your arms stiff, right? If you say it like that, it sounds ridiculous. Stretching, my legs, make my arm stiff, no. Your arms will not get any stiffer because you’re stretching your legs. They just won’t get any more limber, right?

So if your arms are in maintenance mode while you stretch your legs, OK, you’re not going to – it’s not going to hurt you. Maintenance mode is about keeping things, maintaining, right? It’s not going to hurt you to put something in maintenance mode. It’s the same whether it’s strength, flexibility, motor control, endurance, anything at all.

Maintenance mode is maintaining and for some things like endurance, endurance will fall off more rapidly, right? So you need to do maintenance mode for endurance. You probably need to do some sort of maintenance level activity about twice a week at the least if you want to keep that up, right?

For flexibility, maybe like a couple of times a week. For strength, even once a week is probably enough. For motor control, a couple of times a month is actually enough to keep a motor pattern fresh enough in your nervous system that you can continue it, provided that you get up to a certain level, because maintenance mode doesn’t bring you up. It just keeps you there.


Andy: It depends on really what your goals are and what you’re working on. But don’t be afraid to put something on the back burner.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s an extremely, extremely important point. It’s OK to put things into maintenance mode. I think that a lot of people out there have this conception that it has got to be done all the time and you have to keep doing it in order to keep it and I mean if you need permission, I will give you permission. You can put things into maintenance mode. It’s OK. You’re going to be OK. Again, unless you’re a professional athlete – and to be honest, professional athletes also put things into maintenance mode. They do.

Andy: Yes, they do.

Ryan: They take time off and focus on other things in order to get better at the things that they’re weaker at and come back to it later but test it out. If you really haven’t had much experience in working in maintenance mode, work up to the point. Maybe you’ve been working on something for six months. Well, if you have, it’s probably a good time to put that into maintenance mode. Take a break from it. Focus on something different and then come back to it later. It’s going to make you better. It really will. It really will.

Andy: But Ryan, aren’t you preaching mediocrity now?

Ryan: Yeah, I guess I am.

Andy: I mean how can you say it’s OK not to always be striving for the best? You should always be focused on improving every day.

Ryan: Well, to tell you the truth, I tell that to people so that I can keep improving. I can always be better than everyone else. My secret is out of the bag.

Andy: But the point then though is that you have to know what’s good enough.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. So …

Andy: You have to know what to say is good enough to work on improving the thing that is not good enough, right? That’s the thing. We’re not preaching mediocrity. We’re not saying you should give up and you should just say everything is good enough and never improve.

We’re saying that you should just try to work on improving one or two things at a time and we don’t – if you think you can improve everything at once, you’re just fooling yourself, right?

So you have to choose. That’s what we’re saying. We’re not saying give up. We’re saying choose.

Ryan: Yeah, and it’s funny that you brought that up because this is something that – over the past week that I’ve really been thinking about is how good or how – how good you really need to be, to be honest, and this is a tough question. It’s different for every single person. When do you know you’re there? This is something that I’ve really been thinking about a lot recently and there are so many different answers and as a matter of fact, Mike Fitch and I just talked about this two days ago.

I’m not going to go too much into detail but this is something that you need to figure out yourself. So when you’re focusing on that priority movement, really how good do you want to make it? How much time do you need to spend on it in order to achieve a particular level that you’re after? It’s going to be different for everyone.

So I think that yes, enjoying the process and leading up to a particular goal is great. But I think a lot of people actually lose focus because they get so involved in thinking that they have to get something that it just takes over their entire life.

So step back and really think about yourself. How good do you really need to be? We’re not – again, we’re not preaching and saying that mediocrity is where we want to be. It’s not that. It’s not that at all but just kind of think about that, your zen moment for the day.


Ryan: When something is in maintenance mode, once a week might be good enough and it doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours and hours on that one time.

Andy: It doesn’t even have to be all out once a week.

Ryan: No. Like for example, my aerials and my butterfly kicks. I just – I might just do a couple just to go, “Oh, OK. I still go it.” Literally just two, maybe, and I’m like …

Andy: That’s all you need.

Ryan: That’s all you need. One is all you need. I think we could beat this dead horse some more, but we won’t. Maintenance mode, if you do have any questions and it can be confusing and trying to figure out maybe what your goal is. Where do you want to work on? What should you put into maintenance mode? Well, don’t worry. Just send us an email. We will help you out. We’re there to help. So if you do have questions about it, just let us know. We’re here for you.

Andy: Yes, we are.

Ryan: Anything to add to that?

Andy: No, no, no. Just simmer your sauce.

Ryan: All right. Keep it simmering baby. All right. We will end there. Until next time, see you.

[End of transcript]

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