Embrace the Recovery
by Vince Matteo
A few years ago, after completing what I would consider my first real season in triathlon, I was faced with the problem of what to do with the remaining time left in the year.
Looking through my collection of books on triathlon training, I discovered that several of the authors suggested an "off season" of two to eight weeks which didn't sit well with me.
As I attempted to rationalize my way out of this, I decided the authors weren't targeting "serious" athletes like me and I immediately dismissed their advice.
Looking for answers, I went to the Internet. Searching around, I found similar advice as to that given by the authors and I became annoyed.
I wanted someone to tell me that I could train straight through the end of the year and dovetail it into the start of the following year. I guess I could have gone against their advice but I wanted see it inwriting.
At the time, I followed a few blogs written by well known coaches and I decided to write them for their opinions. Obviously, I realize I wasn't looking for an opinion; I was looking for someone to give me the answer I wanted to hear. And considering that it's the Internet -- if you write enough people, you will eventually find someone who believes "they" faked the moon landing let alone someone who will tell me I can skip the off season.
It took three emails to get the answer I wanted.
Following that, I trained straight through the end of the year and I began the cycle all over again without a break. At the completion of another season of racing, I attempted a repeat but an accident left me with cracked ribs and my plans were derailed.
I freaked! I was convinced that if I stopped training, I would lose all of my fitness and I would start back at square one. And despite my bestefforts to train, I was unable to swim or run and I could only spin lightly on the trainer as long as I didn't move my upper body.
Five weeks passed before I could seriously train in all three disciplines, but to my surprise, my fitness returned quickly. By the end of January, I was in the full swing of training with a similar load asthe previous year and it was as if the five weeks of zeroes had little impact.
After completing yet another successful season, I was faced with the question once again but the fear of losing fitness was replaced by the fear of what would happen if I didn't take the break.
I needed a break, I wanted a break, and I did not want to train. It was my first offseason by choice and it was a long one, especially from swimming and biking. When January rolled around, I got back into the groove and my fitness levels returned.
Here we are in the present and another successful season has ended but it's not even a question. I'm taking the break! I know come January, I will kick out the cobwebs, my fitness will return and I will begin the season with fully charged batteries.
It's taken four years but I'm finally able to move past my fear, to let go of the fitness and to do what those authors suggested in their books. (They really aren't the idiots I thought they were!)
All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with Yoda in which he told me (I'm paraphrasing...): "I know you think you are different but you are not."
...Actually, now that I think about it, Gordo said that, not Yoda. It makes more sense now because Yoda doesn't even coach triathlon.
The point is that we might think we are different but we're not. We train, we race, and most important, we recover. If you skip that last one, it starts to accumulate and you might be able to push it off for a while but it'll eventually catch up with you. Embrace it.
Vince is an experienced ironman competitor and multiple-time Kona-qualifer. You can follow him on his blog at felog.net and on Twitter @felog.