There is an anecdotal story about frogs that best makes my point.
There was this frog, sitting on a lily pad. He decided to jump from that lily pad to the next one. What happens next?
Nothing. Just because frogs decided to jump doesn’t mean that he jumped. He MAY have jumped, but he might not have jumped. A decision to jump isn’t the same thing as action. Action is more than a decision or commitment. It is, well, action!
I knew I needed to take some time away from fitness and work, to reflect on life. Indeed, I need to do it more than once a year. But as a mature athlete, I get overly concerned with how much fitness I give away when I take time off.
After Worlds this year, my son and I travelled to Norway for some down time. Sure, we were active, as we hiked in the mountains daily, but we never pushed it the way we would in duathlon training. We thought of our day hikes as recovery hikes. Truth be told, though, that was NOT time off from training. We hiked lots of miles each day, and my legs and lungs didn’t rest.
Leading our Scout troop on a fishing trip was the answer for quality down time. Near the end of July, I lead a group of boys down the Salmon and Aniak Rivers. Each day, I focused on nothing. We left on a Friday AM and didn’t return until the following Monday. That was 10 days of a pulse that never exceeded 80 per minute. I can’t remember the last time that happened.
Now that the summer is over, and fall is upon us, nearly all my major competitions are complete. I look back on the summer and now conclude that the best action I took was to have 9 consecutive days off from fitness.
I did nothing during that time off. I used a GPS to make decisions on routing. I never worked so hard as to sweat. Smartly, I throttled my caloric intake to match my throttled exercise regimen.
And I loved it! Recovery for some athletes represents a scary place. They fear losing fitness during a period of time off.
Yet, there was some anxiety associated with giving my body what it needed. Trainingpeaks shows that when you greatly reduce your training load, your Chronic Training Load (CTL) decreases, and CTL is a measurement of fitness.
Seeing these numbers drop can be scary, after you have spent literally hundreds of hours building fitness. To watch it go from 60 to 50 in a week seems more like blood loss than minor declines in fitness.
It is only now that I see how helpful it was to be away from all things.
I have another downtime scheduled on the horizon, as well. Don’t know why I haven’t done these more often. Oddly enough, downtime is not a requirement for success. However, it is a requirement for longevity.
But just because I needed to take some time away doesn’t mean that I did. Last year, I went full throttle like the frogs. It resulted in injury over the Spring and Summer, and it could have been prevented.
I don’t want to be like the frogs and find myself on the lily pad, after failing to follow through on my decision to jump. I want to jump.
So, I jumped.
My fitness suffered a bit, but I am healthier now.
Bye-bye, old Lily pad. Hello, new one!