It has been quite a long year by September for most folks. You may or may not have done a lot of races or events, but usually most people have dedicatedly stuck to some sort of structured program since last Nov, Dec or Jan. Time for a break! Back away from the Garmin, put up your feet and don’t even think about working out hard…or long…or tomorrow…or often. Seriously, there has to be a time every year where you give your body, mind and spirit a vacation.
It would be nice if we could all lie on a Hawaiian beach for a month, but most of us have to find a way to put our bodies through a staycation of sorts. Yes, life goes on, work still happens and the kids are always hungry, but allowing your body to recover, repair and restore is not just important, but VITAL to a life long pursuit of sport.
What needs to happen in this phase of training? And yes IT IS TRAINING! You can’t make a tired and broken body go very fast. So putting fuel back in the mental and physical tank is the priority. And this process is a little different for everyone. But here are some things to consider:
• Let go of structured workouts and schedules
• Do only what you feel like and NEVER force a workout at this point
• Slow down—go for a hike instead of a run. Preferably alone, with friends or family you don’t normally “workout” with because you are “in training.” This applies to biking too.
• Stretch–do yoga or stretch for 30 minutes as a days workout and then take a hot shower
• Do only light core work if you INSIST on strength training.
• Add an extra rest day or two. Stretching is not a rest day. Doing nothing is.
• Don’t get into a pool to swim laps if it brings tears or the thought of “I would rather pour acid into my eyes”
• Never train hard enough to need Endurox or any other recovery product……Okay, maybe just once a week for those of you who just have to do SOMETHING.
• Do something around the house you don’t normally have time for because it just feels good to finally git’ er done without being worried about how it effects tomorrows workout.
How do you mentally recover? Mentally “let it go.” Just let your mind take the vacation too. Stop thinking about workouts, schedules, races, goals and whatever else clutters it up at this point. Turn it off and think about something more important like how the morning light trickles down through the trees during your hike or how fresh the early fall wind feels on your skin as you run and ride easy. Yoga is really good too at training your mind to feel the subtleties that most people want to ignore. And don’t ignore the unstructured silence you may encounter. It is said that in the silence you discover your own shallowness, but it is there you discover your own strengths too. And if you are uncomfortable admitting to such transcendental thoughts, then just don’t tell anyone! But think them…no.matter.what!
How long will it take? Usually at least 3 weeks, but sometimes up to 6 or 8 if you have put your body through a tremendously high volume or intensity over the last 10-12 months. This could be the result of training for multiple ironmans, half ironmans and marathons (which I don’t recommend.) OR maybe you are very competitive in the shorter events and have invested A LOT of time to train hard and race even harder. Whatever the case, if you have put your body and mind through the ringer, have regularly trained over 12 hours a week, trained very hard, raced hard more than 6 times, or done too many long events, then you may need more than 3 weeks. Even if you have just done your first marathon or first year of structured training, but it challenged you more than anything ever has, then take it one week at a time!
When is your body, mind and spirit ready to go again? Physically, you are ache free, loose, flexible, feeling light in the legs and rested overall. Mentally, you have your excitement back! You definitely can wrap your brain around your next adventure and are more than ready to get back into a routine of some kind. Spiritually, you feel renewed, more calm and directed.
This is one of the most fun points in the year when you do it right. When you have properly rested and recovered for long enough, this is when you find the love in what you do again. This is when you can breathe deep and feel no weight on your shoulders. This is also when you are ready to look ahead with eyes wide open ready to chase and catch the next, even higher state of becoming at true athlete. What is a “true athlete?” Well, that is something that is available to anyone at any level. It is worth you pondering about and a discussion we will have another time!