Train Hard. Rest Harder.
I love Coach Rick for many reasons, but I think I love him most of all for teaching me the importance of doing sweet fuck all. In the past, I have been inclined to approach my training the way a dog approaches a spilled bag of dog food – with the reckless enthusiasm that is halted only by death. But Rick has done his best to teach me that while training hard is important, resting hard makes you stronger. Resting allows the body and mind to recover – allowing you to go harder or longer when it counts. Training hard without proper rest puts you at risk of injury and could buy you a quick ticket to burnoutville. Especially if you’re old like me.
I suspect that for many A type athlete folks, not doing anything is very hard to do. When I am doing nothing, I am very cranky – which puts my relationships with the people around me in great peril. Thankfully I’ve learned that there are many things you can do as part of your rest and recovery that do not require doing nothing.
I’ve always resisted yoga, holding firmly to the belief that in order to fit in you needed to be someone of the Birkenstock-wearing, hairy armpitted, patchouly-smoking variety. Being more the high-heeled, lipstick-wearing, gin-and-tonic drinking type, I thought I would be shunned – albeit in a very passive aggressive and life affirming manner.
But when Blake, my trainer, raved about the benefits of hot yoga once a week to balance the other more intense aspects of my training, I figured I’d give it a try. Blake is not a patchouly smoking hippy whatsoever, and he is so awesome that if he told me base jumping was good for my fitness, I’d probably give it a go.
And give it a go I did, and was pleased to be proven (as is often the case) entirely wrong. I started with a very basic Moksha class, which is basically all the usual stretches you should be doing after you ride but don’t. Sure you could do it at home – but if you’re like me, unless it’s scheduled and/or you’re paying for it, you won’t. Sometimes it’s really crowded, but for the most part people are so intensely disinterested in you that there is no real need to feel self conscious in the slightest.
Much to my Mother’s chagrin, even as a baby I did not nap. As an adult, I would have to be delirious with Dengue fever to sleep during the day. But the body is a funny thing and heals itself while we are sleeping. Which is a little creepy and alien-like if you ask me. So ideally, getting eight hours a night is an easy way to get really strong without moving a muscle. I bet Jens Voigt sleeps 128 hours a night.
I’ve only recently discovered massage, and am now a card-carrying massage junkie. Half the battle of a good massage is being able to tell your therapist what you need: relaxation, flushing, deep tissue, help with an injury, or just some time away from laundry and the kids. Some basic knowledge of human anatomy helps, but pointing to the offending body part and moaning works too. The other half of the battle is finding the right therapist. I started with a lovely woman with soft curls, a soft voice and even softer hands. When she got too busy to squeeze me in for my inevitably last minute emergency massages, I was foisted onto a muay thai boxer with a crew cut who seemed intent on making me pay for the sins of all humanity through my IT band.
After some “human stupidity issues” said boxer was relived of his table and now I see the lovely and talented Steve, who’s a little bit hippy, a little bit rock and roll. He is just right, and we get on just fine.
Unlike good morals, which I find excessively overrated, good morels are an absolute delight. Preferably washed down with a nice pinot noir from Oregon. I love food. While I shudder to use the overused “foodie” moniker, it’s less crass than “glutton”, and if the spaghetti stain fits, wear it. Loving food can be both a blessing and a curse. With the volume of exercise I do it’s easy to give myself permission to eat as much as I want of whatever I want. Your body needs fuel, so why not enjoy it? But while a grilled chicken breast is great fuel, a beautifully crusted crème brûlée is probably not. I continue to struggle with the knowledge of healthy eating and it’s implementation. The need for speed is a great motivator and every time I reach for the chips I try to imagine my watts per kilogram taking a nosedive. But get between me and my brûlée and I will light you on fire.
Not to be confused with sleep, this is awake time where us A type personalities need to find some way of keeping somewhat still without killing our loved ones or dying of boredom. Since being a couch potato is much harder than it looks, active recovery is a great alternative. Active Recovery may sound oxymoronic, but it just means that light activity is better for you and your aching body than doing nothing at all. So park your bike and engage in an alternate activity. From snow shoeing to shoe shopping, as long as you’re moving it’s all good.
You should always take at least one day a week off completely. I have tried to argue that on those days I really shouldn’t go to work, cook or empty the litter box, but sadly nobody seems to take my training regiment as seriously as I do. And make sure to build in easy weeks into your regular training schedule. During those weeks, workout intensity should stay the same while volume is decreased. So you can still hammer hard, just less often.
We’re always told to be good to other people. Sometimes you need to just forget all that shit and be good to yourself. There are tons of resources out there to learn more about this stuff. Read books and magazines, surf, and talk to actual people who seem to have it figured out. People like Coach Rick.
In the meantime, train hard. Rest harder.