In this day and age, we want everything at the click of a button, we have seemingly shorter attention spans and we’re constantly on the move. Whether its our work, or our play, we seem to hit life at 100 mph with little time to sit back and relax, or to take the time to evaluate.
This is also true with most of our mindsets towards training and racing during the OCR season. The more we train, the more we will improve. The more we race, the better we will get. If we’re not laying on the floor heavy breathing with our legs full of lactate and a pool of sweat beneath us, then we’ve not worked out hard enough. Yet how wrong could we be?
Recently, I’d been going through this phase, maybe for the last 3 or so months. The harder my training, the better. And although I’ve made a conscious decision to race less this season, to yield better training blocks, I’ve still been throwing down back to back days of racing, and the occasional back to back weekend, all intertwined with training blocks of hell for 3 or so solid weeks with little time to breath.
Unfortunately if we do not allow our bodies adequate rest between sessions and we are always depleting the same energy systems, this can lead to a plateau in performance but it can also lead to some pretty serious stuff such as adrenal fatigue. Thats something you do not want, as it can take months to recover from!
We tend to race, weekend in and weekend out, pushing our bodies to the near end of its current fitness capabilities, with our expectations for it to perform well again in a week or two with some serious training in between.
I raced the European championships in Morzine, a huge race with over 1800+ of gain in over 20Kms after a big relentless training block of exhaustive sessions, to then be back on the line at Spartan Midlands for a back to back weekend. During that weekend, I came 8th in a field I believe I should of at least landed in the top 5. The next day my legs did not want to move, energy systems depleted and rolled in way back of the elite field. My mind and body were exhausted and needed some long awaited TLC.
I took the smart decision to take a minimum of one week fully off of ALL training. Although I still made sure I was fairly active on my step count. I made sure I ate some good healthy food, the occasional drop of red wine, had plenty of sleep and took my mind well away from thinking about training or competing. Sounds easy? But being someone who loves to be active, it actually takes quite a bit of will power to admit you need to rest and not train, especially mid season when others may be out training and laying down the miles.
The results of this week off speak for themselves, on days 6 – 7 my mind and body was ready to train again. My first training session back consisted of a 3 mile benchmark test, resulting in a 5km of 18.22 – Proof that my body needed to rest and re-build.
So, don’t be afraid to have a week off, don’t be afraid to take the pressure off and reset. You don’t have to feel fucked at the end of every session, sometimes taking it slow is actually a lot more beneficial than you would believe, the art is to have a steady progressive overload over a period of weeks, with adequate rest between sessions to ensure you are getting fitter and not burning yourself out.
After all, some high level athletes may not actually be training that much harder than you, they are most likely just recovering better, sleeping a few hours during the day between sessions, eating well, as well as getting regular sports massage, physio treatments and maybe some crazy SC-FI Cryotherapy for those small percentile gains!
Rest up and reap the rewards!