I wrote a similar Weekly Word last year – but I wanted to add some more insight, a new version, some new angles.
As we enter the dark months – or so I call them – the focus for training and the next event becomes difficult. Some of us line up some winter events to keep us engaged, others lighten the load, and others take time off completely. I have never been a fan of taking time of completely. You work for months, sometimes even a year or more, to get to this level of fitness and being ‘in tune’ with your body, just to stop? Yes, the brain needs a break – you can’t always be ON. Yes, life around us needs some attention. Yes, the body requires some rebuilding. All of this can be achieved without being completely OFF. And here are some reasons – some being repetitive from previous years, others being newer – for not taking off:
- You have all heard me say this before – why take time to get really fit, just to repeat the cycle again? Taking time off (and this also includes the occasional run or bike or swim) puts you back to where you started, and it becomes even more frustrating retuning to fitness. Why? Because you have a sense & feel for what fitness feels like, so your return takes short cuts – you want it back. If you want to progress, get ahead of yourself and your past results, you need to be ahead of your past training self. Like they say – just focus on being a bit better each day – each week – each month. A bit better is measured in many ways; it can be in any aspect of yourself or the sports we are training.
- Have you ever learned how to drive a car with stick shifting? Those of you that have know what is like to let go of the clutch too quickly – you jump forward and stall. Stopping and starting training is like popping the clutch. You briefly jump, go, pop…but then you stop and stall. Only now you are injured. The body prefers to be training – since that allows for consistent adaptations and it helps you avoid injury. Accelerating into a quick training build will most likely have you popping the clutch on your body.
- Training for endurance sports is like partying. We used to be able to go out until 2am, sleep a few hours and be fine – maybe even do it again the next night. But as we got older, we no longer can do it. You need & want sleep; otherwise you are wrecked for days. Two nights in a row? Talk to me in a week. Our endurance training is the same. As we get older we can no longer just put together a quick training build for the season. We need more and more time to reach outstanding fitness. We used to just hit it hard for 8 weeks and boom: ready to go! Now, it requires bodywork, focus, consistency and a lot longer than 8 weeks to be ready for an endurance event! We just need longer, gradual training builds, and too much time off just makes this all too hard to achieve without…injury.
- Remain attached. It is ridiculous to think we can train at a high level year round. The beer just tastes better when you’re not worried about getting up in the morning for a big training day or the pre-dawn run. But, knowing you are 3-5 weeks away from ‘it’ – that feeling of being fit, fast and progressing – is what it means to remain attached. This way, when talking about not being able to build as quickly as years past, you are not that far off at any point in time. Remaining attached means you are fit enough to understand, feel and see (mirror/scale etc.) that if you needed to get going, you could be on your high level training within 3-5 weeks.
- This all said, we want a balanced season. We want a healthy body; we want to avoid injury, as well as mental burnout. This is the time of year to surely let go. No powermeter, Garmin, nada. Just listen to your body, your breathing, take in the sights and sounds of your training loops and rides. Work on technique (light feet/land-lever-lift), cadence, relaxed feet in shoes, swim technique (send your coach videos of you swimming and swimming catch up!) – all the little items you did not feel you ‘wanted’ to address during the heart of the season. Ride the routes you usually can’t, run the trails! Get to know a Masters swim program. Dial in all the training plans (track, groups etc.) so that come THE training time, you are ready.
- Mentally if you don’t feel it today… don’t do it. Yes, you want your mind to have a break too, from forcing it to engage and remain ‘in the moment’, focused on your goals. A day here or there is ok. A week here or there is not… Exhale. Introduce yourself to your life around you. Sure – you might be still training, but this is the time of year to let your friends and loved ones know that you CAN be flexible…careful here though. Just because I CAN vacuum the house, doesn’t mean I want people to know I’m good at it, and therefore have to do it all the time….
All of this of course does not apply if you are less that 32 weeks out from you’re ‘A’ race. That would mean you are IN season, and therefore need to get on it! 32 weeks from now? late June…