Give it a Rest

Things are getting weird.

I’ve always been a minimal sleeper and maximal eater. I’m sure science has proven twelve times over that these things are related, and I’m sure that if I could only sleep more I’d likely eat less. But, in the parlance of our times: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” But lately, I’m sleeping more and eating less. What gives?

Jacked From: Pinterest
Jacked From: Pinterest

Used to be that a five-hour night was no big deal, and considered totally do-able for me. No real effect on my next-day’s performance, and rarely even necessitated an additional cup of coffee. But that was when a day’s performance consisted of running only between the car and the meeting that started five minutes ago, maybe a 5k run (or 6 miles on weekends), and some 12oz curls from 7:00 to 10:00.

I knew going in to heavier training that I would have to focus on nutrition and rest a lot more than I had been (which, of course, was not at all). Since starting , I’ve made a conscious effort to stock my fridge with healthy food and get in bed before 11:00. Seemed totally reasonable. But now it’s not enough. It’s not just that I’m not hungry for the healthy stock of food (Get away from me Mango, I don’t want anything to do with you. And greek yogurt, seriously, bail.). Even my life’s most faithful junk-food companions — frappucinos and french fries — hold no sway. I’m telling you, it’s weird.

And I’m sleeping more now than I ever have. I feel like installing a pedestrian bridge from my front door to my bed would best outfit my apartment for the way I actually spend my time there. Now that I’m not compelled to swing by the fridge, the rest of the apartment can pretty much burn down. (Not really, Universe. You wouldn’t do that to good ol’ uninsured blob, would you?).

I don’t train with a team, I’m not friends with many triathletes, and if the friends I do have keep making the faces they make when I tell them about the rigors of this training program their faces are going to stick that way. So I Googled it (said every lonely triathlete, ever). And lo and behold there was an article right on point written by a tri-hero of mine: Chrissy Wellington. She re-frames rest days for those of us routine-rats (No really.  Who moved my cheese?) by considering rest and recovery as PART of her training.  She trains 24/7 because taking time off can be tough, too.

I’m not claiming to be some kind of Anna Wintour never-sleep-never-eat-only-work type.  It’s not that it’s hard for me to NOT work or workout.  But when I am not working or working out, I am almost invariably thinking that I should be.  I get down on myself for being lazy, for procrastinating, for being undisciplined.  I wonder how missing this swim will come back to bite me (in that burning way right under my right ribs when I can’t get my breathing rhythm right)  2/3 of the way between buoys on the swim or how downgrading a spinning workout from base-10 resistance to base-8 resistance will inevitably leave me so weak that I have to walk my bike up whatever sheer cliff the course-drawing sadists include in my next race.

Maybe it’s time to chop your head off, rent “Top Gun” for the 101st time and have a well-deserved duvet day.

Wellington goes farther than just counting rest and recover as part of training, she says she can’t be clearer about the fact that it is precisely the rest and recover that will make you a better athlete.  As in  MORE important that the training itself.  Hm.  Well, it’s true that I tried to schedule in sleep and nutrition into my training program, but it’s not weighted as heavily as the training itself. It’s not rare that I’ve opted to check-off a scheduled workout instead of getting an extra hour sleep or, you know, enjoying a meal.  (Dinner is so last season.)  And when it comes to complete and total rest DAYS, like full days completely off — forget it.  The only time I’ve taken completely off was to ice and rehabilitate an injury (so, basically, by force.)  Wellington says that a proper day off requires “buttocks-on-sofa,” a pose I’ve not assumed since I don’t know when.

It’s weird, like I told you from the outset.  But I think if there is any advice to take, it’s from the Queen of Ironman:

And before you head out on your next hard session, ask yourself some simple questions.

Have my last few workouts been pretty suboptimal? Has my sleep been broken? Am I moody and irritable? Do I feel overly lethargic and tired? Has my appetite disappeared? Do my legs feel like they have been run over by a truck? If so, maybe it’s time to chop your head off, rent “Top Gun” for the 101st time and have a well-deserved duvet day.

Don’t forget your fetish tights!

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One comment

  1. “But when I am not working or working out, I am almost invariably thinking that I should be. I get down on myself for being lazy, for procrastinating, for being undisciplined.” That describes me too… it’s hard to fight that. I need to do better in the rest department too.

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