December 8, 2010 posted by

Party Time!

“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.


  • It is hard to rest, but rest and rebuild is a huge part of the process. It also helps avoid burn out. I really liked this message and I hope that more people take heed to it.Oh I once knew someone who was so run obsessed they dropped over from over training. Took about 6 months recovery. Being addicted to the rush is hard to break, but good for you for taking care of your wife……. so well 😉

  • How long of a break should one take away from P90X, for example, should one take then?

  • How long should one take away from P90X, for example, and rest? What would be some good maintenance activities.

  • I always tell people to do the things they like to do. In terms of 90X, so many of our customers have opened the possibility for whole new lives because their new fitness will allow them to do things that they couldn't have imagined before. As for how long there is no set rule for everyone. In some cases, back to back rounds of 90x are fine. In others, some time should be taken off. For most people one long-ish break (more than a couple of weeks) per year helps recharge the mental batteries. If you'd like individual help, ask on the Message Boards where we do these assessments for people all the time.

  • Are you saying a complete break from any program? Or just switching things up? I suppose you should still workout just not to a tightly scheduled program?

  • In a perfect world you'd shut things down after your last peak. Doesn't always work out that way but that should be the goal. Exercise, for sure, is on. Pretty much all you want. The only rule should be to stay away from your wheelhouse. So if you're a skiier don't ski, cyclists don't cycle, Xer don't do 90x, etc. Just play, don't plan. But for sure keep moving if that's what your body wants to do. Of if you feel the need to sleep or lay on a beach, do that.

  • Can you help? I'm a 3 time P90x and one time P90x+ grad now recovering from thyroid cancer treatment. I'm trying to build a plan to get back to shape but don't really want to post all of this on the team beachbody boards. Can I ask your advice?

  • The boards are by far the most efficient place to get answers because we have staff who can get questions to the right people. They're free and you can be as anonymous as you like.

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