Pushing Myself … to Take a Day Off

For the past couple of weeks my coach mentioned it’s fine to take a day off if I feel I need it.  At first I thought such a suggestion is silly.  I feel great!  But because I am paying a professional to train me I decided to listen to him.  So I took yesterday off.

A day off can be the same as a recovery day or it can be different.  On a recovery day, one can still be active; the key is the effort level is much less.  For example, in the past I’d spend 45 minutes on an elliptical machine.  For the past two recovery days (which are Mondays for me), I went to yoga.  (A couple of good articles/videos on recovery days are:  Competitor’s video and Runner’s World “Relax and Recharge to Run Faster.”)  Yesterday I didn’t take an active recovery day though.  I did not exercise at all.  In fact I guess you could say I did the complete opposite of exercise: I got a massage at my favorite sports therapy clinic.  (Massages are highly recommended for athletes.  Here are two articles articulating the benefits of a massage:  The New York Times’ “How Massage Heals Sore Muscles” and Competitor’s “Triathlon Training: Benefits of a Massage.”)

The massage therapist, Ilene, who I’ve seen twice now, says she knows my type.  At least she knows my type as an endurance athlete.  She says we, athletes, have a tendency to push ourselves and even work hard to ignore pains and aches. It’s the nature of the beast.  I agree with her.  She and I discussed how this mindset is not healthy in terms of constantly being aware of our bodies and listening to what they tell us.  Ilene is a very good sports massage therapist.  She’s been able to pin-point some key issues with my body and explain how I can address them.  She’s very insightful.  However, she doesn’t know that there’s another dimension to me because I’ve not told her about Noah.  (Why should I?)  She doesn’t know about this part of me that has deepened my desire to push myself much, much harder.  And I know I’m not the only one.  There’s Roni Selig, and  many others who belong to this “club” (for lack of a better word).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve actually thought about my desire, my inspiration for pushing harder and tolerating any discomfort during my training sessions.  Before Noah I pushed myself when I trained and of course I worked very hard during my actual races.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit this now but back then I thought I pushed myself hard enough.  Losing Noah introduced me to a much more powerful meaning for pushing or demanding more from myself; it’s like a completely different category.  As I thought of this I began to wonder about the risks of over doing it and even possibly damaging my body.  How I can ensure I don’t do this?  As I’ve mentioned before, when I feel tired, discomfort or even complacency during my workout sessions, all I have to do is think about Noah and what he endured and then I quickly shift gears to push through whatever challenge I’m experiencing.  Just like pretty much anything worth pursuing in life, there are several aspects to racing triathlons successfully.  Of course the physical strength, right attitude/mindset and even spiritual awareness are critical.  But there’s also the intellectual element which involves smart training and smart racing.  This includes race day strategy, working on key drills, building up correctly, and creating and adhering to a good training plan.  It also includes being aware of my body’s condition and actually listening to what it’s telling me.  I don’t know yet how I’ll effectively incorporate this last factor into my training.  Hopefully taking yesterday off is a decent start though.

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