But really it isn't as crazy as it may sound at first. If you are an endurance athlete, or a competitive athlete, you know it's not so simple. It is damn near impossible to just walk away for 1-2 months and completely forget about your running, or biking, or cross-fit, or whatever it is you are competitive in. More to my point, just chilling on the couch is probably the worst thing you can do. You lose the fitness gained over the year and you don't fix whatever problems that need fixing. Downtime is downtime yet it is so much more.
Three weeks into "doing nothing" has felt pretty good so far. I am doing what I want, not forcing anything on myself, and embracing having less fitness. Just this week I started to feel like adding a bit of structure to a workout or two, which in the past has always been a good indicator of where I am physically and mentally. I am making progress in three areas - fixing the body, getting the mind ready, getting strong.
Fix the BodyThis is the #1 reason I take downtime. I'm a 46 year old man who has been competing in long endurance events for almost 20 years now. Prior to that I was a guy rat who could squat and deadlift A LOT of weight. Hard to believe now, but back in the day I would give my body a beat down, just a different form than what I do today. In athletic years I am quite old.
With athletic age comes issues. Fortunately for me most all of mine have been small. I fix them with my Body Work Team, which consists of my Chiropractor Kyle Werkheiser and my massage therapist Joe Przybylowicz (pronounced: Pro-bill-o-wick). I have been to Kyle twice and Joe three times since racing the RnR Philly 1/2 Marathon October 31st. The tightness in my back and the little niggles I had in my legs are just about gone.
Mental Break From "Training"Getting out to the track and knocking out some mile repeats or doing some Vo2Max bike intervals are awesome, but one of my favorite runs is an early morning run on my "home course" (a 7.6 mile loop) at whatever pace is comfortable. There is no internal pressure to run a pace, nor any preconceived notions about what needs to be achieved. It is running for the joy of running. It is the reason why I got involved with this spot to begin with.
The past three weeks have been nice. After 4 days completely off and barely doing anything the final three days of the week, I have slowly increased the amount of swim/bike/run I have been doing. Nothing is forced; nothing is hard. Just doing what feels right. Last week a "real" swim workout felt right so I pushed a little ... just a little. This week I did a more formal workout. Six weeks ago physically I could do more in the pool but mentally it was hard. Last week the work set kinda sucked, but an enjoyable suck.
Strength TrainingIf you are an old man like me the only way to can really continue to race fast - or fast for you - is to hold onto your strength. Fortunately I enjoy this part. In 2015 I did a good job in-season in maintaining a strength base. Now that I'm back at it more regularly I'm pushing weight I haven't done in years. Along with traditional strength work I mix in functional strength training. This should pay dividends come next summer in the buildup for Ironman Lake Placid.
Even if you're not an "old guy" you should still embrace the weights. It can be traditional weight training or functional strength work, whichever you are more comfortable with. You will feel better, hold more muscle mass, and keep the body strong.
SwimmingThe best time of the year to work on your swim is right now. Outside is dark and cold. You have no race commitments to train for. You have extra time as you aren't training all that much.
Over the years I have transformed myself from a very mediocre swimmer to a pretty good "non-swimmer." I will never be able to hang with the guy who joined a club team at age 4 and had a college swim scholarship. Yet come race day my swim is usually in the top 7 to 10%, no matter what distance I race. The gains I made came from the work I put in in November, December and January over a period of 4-5 years. With the emphasis on swimming and not running or biking I could get to the pool 5 days a week. And that is real, not, "I was gong to get to the pool but blah, blah excuse," but actual pool time!
Right now I am just starting to ramp up swim volume. I am not behind by any means as I don't need/desire to start putting in solid yardage until January. As long as I continue to slowly up the volume and intensity for the next five weeks all will be well. As I am feeling some motivation to be in the pool these days I have no reason to believe I won't be where I want to be at the start of the new year.
What's Next?I do have two races on the schedule in the coming weeks. Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) I will be in Nazareth at the annual Pumpkin Pie 5k preemptively burning off the pie I will consume later in the day. I will be running with The Mayor and not racing. This has been on the schedule for years as a fun run for me. Same plan at the Christmas City 5 Miler on December 12th. Both these races support good causes. Both have been a tradition of mine for years.
Other than that, I'll be letting my body dictate what I do while slowly getting back into training.
Thanks for reading.
Train hard. Stay focused.