Short breaks from our workout routine are an essential part of any year-long training cycle. Without time off, motivation wanes and the body starts to rebel. Downtime makes many athletes anxious though, and understandably so, as it takes months of hard work to build fitness and strength. Done right though, training breaks can set you up to perform even better than before. Here's how.
Endurance athletes are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries and muscle imbalances. Think about it, we spend hours at a time in one position, moving only in one direction. Use your down time to move in different ways—that’s the way the human body was meant to move! If you’re a rower or an urban runner, try a sport with lateral movement like skate skiing or hiking on uneven terrain. Cyclists—who sit for hours at a time with the hips flexed and chest closed—should move in a way that will open the chest, strengthen the upper back and arms, and train the diaphragm to breathe unilaterally. Spicing up our routine has the added benefit of renewing motivation and sparking creativity.
Long hours of training drain the body of essential vitamins and minerals. This is the most common area of performance I see neglected, sometimes ignored all together. Time off is a rare opportunity to restore resources and prepare for the season ahead. Training breaks free up time and bandwidth, allowing us to think more about nutrition. On top of that, the body is better able to absorb and bank nutrients from our food because we're not draining it out each day in training! Take advantage of time off to address deficiencies that could be holding you back, or worse, compromising your health. Start early though—many deficiencies can take months to restore.
Not sure what deficiencies you should look for? Visit a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, or coach who can explore this with you.
Bank some Z’s.
While your body is working hard to renew its nutrient stores, make its job easier by banking extra Z’s. You knew this one was coming. Most of you aren’t getting all the sleep you need and you just won’t admit it! Our bodies struggle to absorb nutrients when we're deprived of sleep. That’s right, you could eat a perfect diet and not receive the full benefit if sleep quality is poor. So, catch up on sleep and feel ok about it. And while you’re at it, use the time to create new habits to ensure the quality of your sleep is improved when you kick off your new season in January. More on this soon.
There are no shortcuts to speed and fitness, but you can make the process easier and more effective by giving your body the resources it needs. Enjoy your time off knowing that you’re taking steps forward to ensure you’ll perform at your best next season!