Today was the big day. The anticipation had been building for three weeks.
Ok, that’s not exactly true.
Actually, it’s not true at all.
|Mmmmm....that was delicious!|
Since the Landkreislauf Ultra in the middle of September I’ve taken some time off. Three weeks to be exact. And I gained 5 pounds. Of course, I didn’t lie around on the couch and each chips and chocolate (ok, I give in, I did that), but there was some mountain biking with my son, a few short jogs and one easy 5k race, but essentially I did no serious training during that time.
My coach recommended two weeks off. I extended it to three, not necessarily because my body needed the extra week, but my mind did. Towards the end of the season I had to force myself out the door to go running or biking. During my strength training sessions, I’d find myself taking short breaks to check my messages and flip through my music. My head was just not in it. This is not surprising, since, according to my coach, I’d done 632 hours of training during the previous 12 months. That’s 26 DAYS of training, nearly a month, so a cool-off period to reflect on the past year as well as look forward to the future was definitely welcome.
MTB with my son who loves taking a slo-mo
But does a break really help? Or conversely, can it do some serious damage to the fitness level that I’ve worked so hard to achieve?
Yes and no.
High volume running takes its toll on the body and there is definitely a point of diminishing returns. But even worse than a performance shortfall is the risk of pushing too hard for too long, which can inevitably lead not only to injuries but inflammation and chronic stress response as well, marking the beginning of the end for an ultrarunner.
|Enjoying nature in my garden|
A short post season break ranging from one to four weeks is good for the body and soul. This period should ideally consist of one week of complete rest followed by one to three weeks of ‘active’ rest, whereby easy, fun activities on a daily basis are the only calorie-burners with the aim of maintaining flexibility and mobility. The decreased intensity allows vitamins and minerals to be replenished from the gorging; your body is healing, repairing any tissue damage and rebuilding; hormone levels are allowed to find their equilibrium. The immune system also gets a chance to catch its breath, which is perfect timing with flu season right around the corner. Plus, there is the benefit of extra time to do things you never have enough time for like family, friends, work and maybe even getting a head start on the taxes or cleaning out the garage. Towards the end of the break is a good time to sit down and plan out goals for the following season, which will help to provide focus and motivation when it’s time to start up again.
But you may also feel some depression due to a lower dose of endorphins. And then there is the weight gain. Why does it go to my belly and not my breasts?!? And fitness level will decrease of course, but that is ok, because if you’ve done things right in the past, then you have built a perfect platform on which to start training for the best season yet.
And when you start to get bored, then you know it is time to get back to doing what you love.
For me, today was the big day.