There is a common idea that the world's best athletes train and focus on their sport 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Yes, it takes an immense amount of focus and drive to be a professional athlete, but the idea of training 24-7 is incredibly misleading. With anything you do, if you don't give yourself a break you will burn out. This is no different for professional sports. Don't get me wrong, becoming a world class athlete takes years of commitment and dedication to your chosen sport, but with as much training as it takes, it also takes a large amount of rest to get the most out of the training that you do.
For myself, the training season essentially spans from April to March, with usually a 2-3 week break in between seasons. That means that outside of the 2-3 week break in the spring, Nordic combined dominates my time for the rest of the year. With the exception of the occasional-to-frequent afternoons off and typical-to-expected Sundays off from organized training, we pretty much train twice a day, most days. While my team does a good job of keep training interesting (usually by going for cool workouts, keeping each other entertained, and making sure that we don't get too repetitive), I still find it hard sometimes to keep myself from getting mentally/physically drained throughout the year.
This season, I have made rest and recovery a higher priority than I have in the past. Admittedly, I have done a terrible job of resting in the past. Last summer, for example, I took courses at the University of Utah, worked full time as a zip line/ropes course guide, and trained full time as an athlete which was wayyyy too much to put on myself. I was pretty cooked at the end of every day, and it took realizing how awful I felt to make myself change. So, this summer, I worked less, only took one class online, and prioritized spending my off days off.
Off days are super important when you spend as much time training as my team does. Not only is it a physical break, it is also a mental break. Having a day, or even just an afternoon, to not think about what your next training session is, if you’ve eaten enough food to make it through the session, if your equipment is dialed for the day, or making sure you have enough sunscreen is a much needed mental break that doesn’t seem like much, but is so, so important.
In the past, on off days/afternoons I used to pick up shifts at work. I figured I wasn’t missing training so I might as well make some money. This year, I’ve prioritized not making that mistake. Instead of sitting in the 100 degree sun for 8 hours, I have been sitting on my couch or in my bed, away from the sun and the tiring heat. It is weird to spend so much more of my time trying to take it easy, but it has been much needed and I have been able to tell a difference in my overall energy level.
Taking it easy has given me time to do other things with my time. I have more time to work on my online college courses. I am also trying to teach myself German which has not been easy. Overall, making taking it easy a priority has boosted my energy levels and lowered my stress levels, which has understandably made me much more happy and productive. I can’t wait to see how the extra rest in the summer pays off in the winter!
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