There are times when you shouldn’t train. Most programs and trainers tell you what to do and when to do it, but we’re all different. And human. And therefore subject to the laws of physiology. “No pain, no gain” aside, there are times when the smart move is to skip your scheduled workout. Yesterday, for me, was one of those days.
Most recreational athletes I know spend their lives in a perpetually overtained state. This is due to two things. First, we tend to think we’re copping out when we slack on our schedule. Second, we tend to be manic to the point that we need to train or our lives feel out of balance.
To train effectively, both of these tendencies need to be overcome. There are countless examples of athletes (recreational and pro) who have reduced the amount of time they spend training and improved their performance. Just yesterday, in fact, I read an interview with professional climber Yuji Hirayama, who just climbed his hardest route at age 40. He said that he doesn’t have as much time to train and climb as he used to and the result is that he’s getting stronger, and climbing harder, than ever.
The best example of this I’ve seen came from Tony Yaniro back in the early 90s. Climbers back then, myself included, tended to train like headless chickens (as well as not eat, but that’s another story), resulting in massive plateaus if we were lucky and injuries when we weren’t. Yaniro—who had a few world-standard ascents in his day—published a workout plan without a set schedule. Each day had a planned workout that began with a lengthy warm-up. At the end of the warm-up, he would assess whether he felt recovered enough or not to proceed. If he felt recovered, he trained. If not, he cooled down and took a recovery day.
Surely, this type of schedule would wreak havoc with us trying to train around busy schedules. If you’ve moved your appointments, kids, etc, around a time slot then, damn-it, you’re probably going to train. But that doesn’t mean it’s what you should do.
Yesterday, when the weather cleared into a beautiful afternoon I became psyched to get outside. I’d actually planned some recovery but my somewhat tender elbow felt fine and I thought about one more hard day before my recovery began. My mindset began to change when I felt lethargic on the hike in. My warm-up left me feeling ready… for a nap. So I bagged the planned session and spent some time scampering around the mountains with Beata at a leisurely pace, scoping the protection possibilities on a line I’d like to climb, and relaxing in the afternoon sun. Training day accomplished.