I always love to read articles and books about balance and rest, about how we focus so much on going going going that we need to find time to stop and pause. Whether it’s a social media cleanse or a meditation retreat, I often find myself thinking, “I should try that!” Yet on a day-to-day basis, I always find an excuse as to why I can’t, especially when it comes to training.
If I stop, I’ll lose momentum. Next week, I have a conference/too many meetings/travel plans, so I have no time to lose now. I have a competition in X weeks, I need all the practice I can get. I’m not strong enough yet.
It’s exactly that mindset that got me hurt. Instead of taking the time to focus solely on improving my Crossfit skills or solely on powerlifting, I decided to try to do two separate training programs at the exact same time. Naturally, this meant I took almost no rest days. Technically, I was only in the gym six days per week, but for two or three hours at a time while also not eating very well and not sleeping very well. My rest and recovery were non-existent.
These days, I find myself taking a slower approach, which makes it harder for me to maintain my motivation. If I commit to training every day — no excuses— I can turn off the part of my mind that weighs out whether or not I want to train that day. When I take things slower, take the time to decide how I feel before heading to the gym, then my lazy, self-doubting voice comes in and asks, “Do you even want to do this at all?”
There is, of course, a balance between doing everything and doing nothing at all, even if I struggle to find it. What I’m learning is that it’s okay to take things slowly, sometimes. There needs to be enough effort to make progress, but not at the expense of both love for the process and long-term growth.
For me, I’m giving myself more rest days, even if it means working out four to five times per week instead of six to seven. Currently, I’m only focusing on Crossfit, even though I still love powerlifting. Instead, I’ll wait until I have more consistent access to powerlifting meets to focus on that type of training. I try to incorporate some method of recovery into my routine on a daily basis, whether that means going a bit lighter during my workouts because I feel tired, foam rolling at the end of classes, or opting for a long yoga routine as an active rest.
Part of being an athlete — and part of good coaching — is understanding the importance of discipline. If I’m not in the mood to train because of other things going on in life, I have two very valid choices: to train or not to train. If I always opt not to train, I may feel more rested, I may have more time for social activities, I may find more balance in other areas of my life, but I won’t see progress. If I opt to always train, I may get hurt, I may ignore my need for recovery, I may fall behind on other passions.
There’s no right answer, especially no right answer that is correct all of the time. Yet each step towards balance is positive, even if it has its own pro’s and con’s. Training for a competition requires a little bit of imbalance, but it doesn’t require that you tip the scales.
It’s a work in progress and I think that’s the whole point. Nothing should ever feel the same all of the time. As athletes, hobbyists, and humans in human bodies, it’s an important task to learn how to read your body. If it hurts too much, don’t push. If it doesn’t hurt at all, you’re too far from your limits.
In the end, it’s all a test of what you’re capable of — not to find what breaks you and not to sit safely on the sidelines.