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So – Where Have You Been!...
Normally at this time on a Sunday evening, I’d be writing up a blog, based on the SMCC Sunday ride. Today, however, is different. I couldn’t comment at all on the ride – because I wasn’t there! It’s criminal, I know – but I have not turned a pedal in anger all weekend and, right now, frankly, I’m climbing the walls a bit.
The enforced rest was, in a way, a voluntary decision; an opportunity to take a weekend away with my lovely missus as we celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. We had a great time – hotel upgraded us – had some wonderful (and, I hasten to add, very healthy) food – the odd glass of red and just generally chilled. When I think about it, it’s a world away from the average weekend for me. Here’s the odd thing though……. I think it may actually have done me some good!
Before I lose All Credibility….
Now, before we go any further, you need to know this about me; I take my training seriously. In fact, I have been so troubled by the fact that I would be taking a whole two days away from any meaningful training that I have invested extra effort this week – running every morning and hitting a PB distance on Friday evening of 14.5 miles (running, that is – not riding). By the time that Friday night arrived, I could feel the fatigue and knew that I’d really pushed myself this week. It’s a great feeling.
Here’s the deal, though, if left to my own devices, I would quite happily have added the usual 100+ miles of cycling to that over Saturday and Sunday – perhaps with a cheeky 10K included for good measure – and I would have bloody enjoyed them as well. But, if I’m honest, I wonder how much actual benefit I would get from such punishment?
You see, the Human body is a wonderful thing but it is just that…. Human!!! It is both wonderful and fallible; a finely balanced machine that, like a supercar, needs careful maintenance to remain at peak performance. When lovingly fettled and fuelled – it’s a formidable thing. But, when pushed beyond its limits then it is prone to failure.
It’ll Never Happen to Me!....
As athletes, we all know the dangers of over-training. But, as athletes, we discretely brush them aside. The horror stories of people having to take six months out owing to over-training are things that happen to other people; aren’t they!! That would never happen to you; would it!!! Well, my friend, it just might.
At the end of the day, you are no more than skin and bone; muscle and sinew; blood and organs. You are no different from any of the other ‘machines’ broken through over-use. You too are wonderful – but fallible and you need to be taking care of that machine upon which you often make unreasonable demands.
Look at any structured training plan and it will always include rest. Admittedly, rest itself is a relative term – what Wiggo would term a rest day, you average club cyclist would have filed in the ‘manic thrash’ category. But, the important thing is that there is a period, where demands upon nerves and muscles are being lightened, allowing space for regeneration and growth – and, it is this which makes you stronger; not just hour upon punishing hour pounding pavements or clipped into pedals.
It’s All in The Mind….. Or, at Least, Partly….
Personally though, I have found the benefit extends beyond the simply physical. You see, I must admit that even the most stalwart fitness addict – such as I – can, at times, struggle to stay motivated. The never-ending ritual of 04:30 alarm calls, 8 miles run before breakfast or 60 miles cycled before Sunday lunch does takes its toll. This is how revolutions start – the desire to break free of routine or oppression.
Continue slavishly forcing yourself to rise to these demands and you may well break your own spirit – driving an internal revolution. It’s that moment, when you wake up, turn off the alarm, turn back over in bed and think, “f@&* this today”. If that isn’t planned, it’s a dangerous moment - a call to the dark side that may become increasingly difficult to resist.
On the other hand, having got ahead of the game and actually forced my own hand in the rest stakes, I now feel not bound - or obliged - to answer that early morning call tomorrow. Rather than bound, I feel determined to take it as a cue to get back in the flow; up my game and justify these two days of decadence.
Already, my legs feel stronger than they have on many-a Sunday evening. I can actually feel the latent energy in my bloodstream and, right now, I’m gagging for that 04:30 call to arms – not dreading it.
Step Back; Take Stock…
To an athlete, rest feels wrong. Through peer pressure and poor advice, we are indoctrinated to believe that if we are not worked to the point of exhaustion at the end of every single day then we have failed; are doing something wrong; have missed an opportunity or, somehow grown weaker. In actual fact, the opposite is true. For someone serious about their sport to take a day – or two – off of training in a structured fashion takes strength. Only the bravest have the confidence that they can do this – and still return to the daily grind. Only the toughest actually will. But every single one of them, who answers the call and then returns will be stronger for it – both mentally and physically; muscles will have rested and have grown; minds now rewarded will become more resolute because of it.
Right now, I’m climbing the walls – and that’s probably a good thing. Because, tomorrow, at 05:00, when I’m authoritatively instructing Siri to, “play my running mix”, I feel the need to work – not simply make it through. Next weekend as I clip in for the SMCC Sunday Morning ride, I will set out refreshed – not jaded and, more importantly, that little part of my brain that always looks to balance effort and reward will have been placated for a good few months to come.
Rest; it’s as unnatural to the serious athlete as losing. But, just like losing, those that use it their advantage will be stronger, better and faster. Listen to your body – let common sense prevail and let Mother Nature do her work. Like the old saying says; a stich in time saves nine – take a day or two out now; rather than a month or two later.