With the Winter season here, we are seeing the end of the season for many athletes.
This is valuable time to take inventory not only on your performance during the previous season and the races it held, but on your most important piece of equipment: your body. Regardless of the sport you play, there is value in taking time off to let your body rest and heal, mindfully evaluating if all of its parts are working optimally. Many athletes feel guilty taking one day off, however avoiding rest days can actually weaken muscles and aid fatigue. Ask any therapist or chiropractor and they will be able to recall athletes who have burnt out, mentally or physically from lack of rest.
The end of the season is often push time: long, end of season races and aims at PRs. This can lead to exhaustion and over-training, at a time you really don’t need it! When muscles are used over and over with little rest between, there is breakdown to the tissues and damage may occur. Think of your car. If you continue to drive it miles and miles, giving it gas, but not an oil change or tune up, it will overheat and burn out! The same goes for humans. It takes time for energy stores to recharge, especially over long periods of time. Glycogen stores, which are exhausted during rigorous exercise, may be come exhausted due to over training and lack of rest days. So, to ward off burnout and over-training, factor in rest days appropriately. Arguably, this time is just as important, if not more, than the actual exercise. Contact a trainer or coach to help you decide what is necessary for you personally.
After the season is over, long-term muscle repair and recuperation takes place. Short-term recuperation breaks, between races or training periods are wonderful and absolutely necessary. But, for increase in performance in your next season several weeks should be taken to see true healing and rest. Time allows for injuries to heal and muscles to rest from over use and fatigue. Work with therapists, coaches and chiropractors may allow for postural adjustments that lead to improved function for next season. Light cross training and strength training may be utilized to correct muscle imbalances or weakness. Any other unresolved issues, nutritional or otherwise may have time to be addressed and resolved. Rest and improved posture, and attending to other issues may allow for a overworked nervous system to reboot. Overall, this is time is vital in preparation for the season to come.
Take this time while the season is ripe for being indoors and give yourself a break. Plan ahead into next season and factor in rest days and breaks. Attend to the mental, physical, and nutritional details that are swept aside during the training and race seasons. Dare I say, pamper yourself? If not, at least spend a little extra time taking care of yourself. Your body, the only one you have, will thank you when you take it back out in the Spring to begin training again!