Winding Down - Training Article
Jeb Stewart returns with another in his Training Series this time
discussing the importance of winding down after a season of training and racing.
By Jeb Stewart MS, PES
The season is done for many and winding down for the rest of us. Some may be
burned out and some may be wanting more still. Either way, it is a good thing to
put the horse to stable for awhile and allow it to relax, rest and recover. The
seasons have become so long these days. Whoever thought there’d be racing
available from February (January even for those who start training races in the
warm areas of the country) all the way through October? Call me crazy, but to
even think of racing cyclo-cross or mountain bikes makes me cringe. I would have
had to have taken 3 months off in the summer to be even remotely ready for that,
but some are heartier than I (or even crazier!). However, riding the mountain
bike for fun, going for a hike or painting the house sounds really good right
The term “nothing” is relative I guess, but the point is that we need some
time where we don’t “have” to do anything. Instead, it is not only nice, but
extremely good for our bodies, minds and spirits to take 2-4 weeks where we
don’t look at a training schedule, don’t follow a plan and don’t even think
about structure. Instead, we should get some extra rest, enjoy doing other
activities that we don’t “allow” ourselves to do during the racing and training
season and have some good old fashioned fun.
After a long season where the body has taken and extreme amount of abuse,
(AKA training and racing), it needs an extended break from going hard to truly
recover from all of that cumulative stress. Not only are the muscles, joints and
connective tissue worn out, but the nervous system is overworked and in need of
some rest as well.
And don’t forget the mind. The mind is an often forgotten part of the
process. It amazes me at how surprised we are at how run down and even depressed
we can get from time to time throughout the season. Was the body really meant to
train 600+ hours a year? Whether it was or not, this is what we do and
continually pushing ourselves beyond the limits takes its toll on our nervous,
endocrine and just about every other bodily system. This can lead to an
excessive level of mental fatigue and the only way to rejuvenate our minds is to
take a break. There could be worse remedies for that which ails us!
It is equally amazing to me how difficult this time of the season can be for
many of us. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it might be challenging
for people who are willing to get up at 4am to get in a 2 hour workout before
the sun comes up to just chill out. I am always surprised by athletes who don’t
want a break. Maybe they haven’t pushed themselves hard enough during the year.
Maybe they are just really tough. Or maybe they don’t know how to relax and just
be? My supposition is that it is likely a combination there of, but regardless,
we had all better take some time off if we want to continue in our fitness
progression and enjoyment of the sports we love. Not doing so, can be fatal and
come back to haunt us sooner than later.
So enjoy this time! How often do you get license to be lazy, to slack off and
to do what you want? Not often enough in my opinion. And for you real Type ‘A’s,
remember, even this hall pass is not without intention. Not unlike most of the
things we do in the course of our training, even this has a purpose and just
like those rest days and rest weeks, without it we will not get as strong as we
could be and instead might get burned out by the very activities we love most.
Instead, take this time to get some extra rest. Sleep in, take naps and allow
yourself to enjoy it. This is also a good time to do some of the other things
you enjoy doing like gardening, spending time with friends and family or just
about anything you can think of that you never get around to during the course
of your racing season. Get some work done around the house; get that creative
project done that has been on the back burner all year. You can enjoy some
cross-training, just remember not to jump into anything too crazy like
basketball or long distance running until you have had some time to work back
into those activities to avoid getting injured. After all, that’s what the next
phase of the season is all about.
Heck, it’s only a couple of few weeks! So it will probably be here and gone
before you know it. Enjoy it while it lasts because soon it will be a distant
memory that you’ll be day dreaming about when it comes time to go out in the
chilly winter weather to do your base miles. Don’t miss the joy of the moment
worrying about what else you should be doing, what you might be missing out on
or what “might” happen if you just allow yourself the to enjoy this time for
what it is. After all, you earned every last second of it with all of the hard
work you put in this year. You deserve it, so enjoy it, coach’s orders!
Jeb has a Master's degree in Exercise Science and
Health Promotion and is certified by the ACSM, NSCA, USAT and USA Cycling as an
Elite Level Coach.
He is a performance consultant to the AEG/Toshiba
Professional and Travel Girl Elite cycling teams and a Category 2 cyclist. He is
the co-creator of
The Next Level, Strength
Training for Endurance Athletes DVD contributes to Bicycling magazine, Runner's
World, Tri-Newbies.com, Ironman Live and the Daily Peloton. He owns and operates
Endurofit, LLC, a coaching and consulting company dedicated to performance
enhancement for athletes, coaches and organizations. For more information, visit
www.endurofit.com or contact Jeb at
Jeb Stewart Training Articles Series:
Simple Summer Nutrition & Hydration Strategies
Making the break