“After his last race of the season,” says my friend Spencer, “he puts him bike in the garage and refuses to even look at it until his legs hairs (which are shaved, of course) grow to an inch and a half.”
We all need rest, both physically and mentally, and this is my favorite off-season recovery story. I like it because it’s simple, clear-cut, and 100% non-scientific. Rest is something where not only is science un-necessary, it’s debilitating. Rest should be both physical and mental. Sports—and exercise—are both physically and mentally addicting. Therefore, breaks should cut you off from both angles so that you come back both physically and mentally fresh.
This is much easier said than done. Vonn (husband of ski superstar Lindsey who is generally referred to by his surname) references the challenge as thus,
“She is extremely diligent,” he said, rolling his eyes. “That’s Lindsey, though. Even when she was supposed to be relaxing and resting her body in April, I would catch her sneaking into the gym. I’d have to drag her out.”
Dragging your spouse out of the gym is certainly counter-intuitive to some of you but, if you’re addicted to a sport or style of training (Xers, yes, I mean you too) there will always be a time where it takes discipline to shut things down.
The reason you want to force is break can best be described as human. Due to a combination of factors no one can stay on top of their game at all times. And if you don’t force rest on yourself then you’re leaving it up to your body to decide when it needs it. While this is obviously dangerous for athletes who need to perform on a schedule it’s better for the rest of us, too. Because we all have times when we would prefer to be at our best, so why leave it up to chance if we don’t have to?
Since my bike’s had plenty of off time this last couple of years I’ve shut down climbing until after New Year. This means no climbing, no training for climbing, no climbing news or scanning the net for videos. It’s a complete forced break that will not only allow microtrauma to heal but will also re-set my daily habits and focus.
Rest has another up side; it’s fun. Historically it’s often been too fun. We only need to peruse the sports headlines to find examples where one athlete or another has gotten in trouble in the off-season. Cyclists are one of the worst offenders. Because it’s such a weight-dependant sport you almost always gain weight you stop racing. Therefore, how much damage was done over the winter has always been headline news in the cycling press.
Jan Ullrich anecdotes aside, just because you’re not focused doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise. In fact you should stay active. The only rule should be that you do something different than normal, with no regiment, no coaching (including Tony, Chalene, Shaun, et al), and no goal except to sustain it for a prescribed period of time. All very calculatedly un-scientific.
It’s hard to force yourself into some down time, especially if you feel as though you’re getting close to your potential. But if you take the initiative you’ll find that you’ll end up with more control over both your performance and your life.
Part II, what I’m doing as “rest”, is here.
pics: curious goings on in the off-season: der kaiser obviously not worrying about his weight, party night in italy (“last blowout before training camp”) featuring some of the world’s best cyclists, and mrs. vonn decidedly not wasting her time off.