Cleere’s Corner: Take Some Time Off

Take Some Time Off!

Dr. Michelle Cleere

The holidays are fast approaching and there are races in January which means the holidays are probably not the best time to completely let go of training and take some time off. However, it’s necessary. So, how do you balance taking time to enjoy the holidays but continue to train?

Time off for body and mind

Your body needs some time off. Our bodies tend to want to hibernate (like bears) during the colder weather and holidays. You might remember Scott Tinley, Ironman Hall of Famer, admitting that time off would have certainly benefited him more than pushing through the entire year. Truth be told, this recovery time can make you a much stronger cyclist come January. Your body needs a break so give it the necessary time to rest, relax, and be in a calmer state.

Your mind also needs some time off. Let’s make a comparison to your work life. Do you remember a time when work was non-stop for a very long time – long hours, little if any time with family or friends? Does this sound familiar? Do you remember getting to a point one day where you were exhausted and needed a BIG change because you’d pushed yourself beyond your capacity to handle that much stress…whew! Do you remember feeling a little depressed? Depression is a scary word, but you probably did feel a little depressed because you were exhausted and burnt out right? What did you do to pull yourself out of it? REST! RELAX and TAKE SOME TIME OFF, right? We are talking about the same principles for your sport.

Bears hibernate for a number of reasons but during the time of hibernation they store food and gain weight for the same reasons humans need to: because our bodies need it (some of it). This does not mean you can eat endlessly and be OK when you begin training again. It means your body needs a little more food in the winter. It’s ok to eat a little more and perhaps eat food you’ve restricted yourself from during the season. It’s all part of the “hibernation” process. Please do not email me in a couple of months saying “I told you to eat whatever you wanted”, as that is not recommended. Moderation is still important, as is living, relaxing, and enjoying the holidays; for your body and your mind.

Balance is critical

To be a good healthy athlete, you have to learn how to have balance. Balance includes participating in life events outside of your sport. Most important is spending time with family and friends. And, eating a little more and a little more ‘bad’ food. Enjoy and be social.

It’s not forever, just a little time off and a lot of recovery. You are in control of our own destiny and are very capable to take care of yourself in whatever way is necessary. I am saying this because I know (I was one) that as an athlete, you are sometimes afraid to take time off because you are afraid you might not be as strong, or could lose your edge. Depending on how much time you take off, you may have to start further back than you want to, but you are strong. You are an athlete. You’ve probably come back from more difficult places (injuries) but you’ve done it. And ultimately, when you are more balanced mentally and give your body a little rest, you really are a better competitor.

Seriously, if you love being an athlete, there should be no question whether or not you should take time off and definitely no question of whether or not you’ll return strong. If you train and compete for reasons other than “the love of your sport” than that is an entirely different conversation (which I won’t get into now).

Avoid burnout

If you continue to push yourself all year, every year, burnout is likely to happen. This leads to decline in performance. It’s hard to know when you are in the initial stages of burnout but believe me, it doesn’t take long to become fully explosive. It’s so easy to experience burnout because most athletes push themselves to the edge. That is what we do. Why get yourself to that point? Be proactive. Give yourself the gift this season of a little time off. Make it a positive thing! Allow yourself some much-needed time with family and friends. Allow your body a chance to hibernate and sleep in and let your mind be calm. Utilize your mind in other ways for other things. In January, you will be fully ready to push yourself again!

Be sure to reflect

This rejuvenation gives you the opportunity to think clearly about next year. Begin the initial stages to set your goals and create your plans for next year including your physical and MENTAL plan. Remember my last article on self-reflection? This is the perfect time to think about 2017 and write down – what went well, what was challenging and what changes do I want to make for 2018? This will help keep you motivated during the holidays to keep on keeping on.

Now is the time for you to begin preparation and part of smart preparation is to allow your mind and body a chance to rest and relax, and to reset. Good luck and let me know what you need!

Dr. Michelle

Elite Performance Expert

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