OK so it turns out that rest and recuperation is harder than it sounds!
The theme for the last two weeks has been downtime. After a season that took in five races including two half-iron distance tris and a half-marathon, it was time for a break. But as I am sure a lot of you will testify, that is not easy.
Having been governed by a training program since March, I have grown to like the discipline of training regularly. I also like the fact that as I approached my A race my weight reduced to something approaching a racing weight (if racing weight were to include carrying five bags of sugar on your back!). Stopping all of that was a wrench. I felt my fitness levels and reduced weight has been hard-earned and resting without exercise would be giving that all away too easily.
It took a coach to make me see sense. He told me to think of next season and all of the exciting things I want to do. Then he said that if I want to be fit for that then I need to give my body some recovery time. Think of it as the start of preparing for next season. That made it a whole lot easier!
The advice I got was to start with a total break from all training. As much as it went against the grain, I was disciplined and did nothing for ten days. I didn’t so much as touch my running shoes or look at my bike. I did zilch – doesn’t sound very disciplined does it?
I took my coach’s advice and found other pastimes to keep my mind occupied – mainly eating and drinking. But it was worth it. Ten days of nothing left me feeling physically and mentally revitalised. Now the plan is to spend November doing some easy and fun unstructured exercise. Lots of short swim, bike and run work, maybe some off-road running or cross-country, but whatever I do I am not going to plan it. My promise to myself is no training program and no watch.
I started my fun November today by doing my local Parkrun for the first time. For the uninitiated Parkrun is an organised timed 5k run that takes place in local parks at 9.00am every Saturday in over 200 towns and cities up and down the UK. It is an awesome movement that has really brought running to the masses. It is an entirely free and volunteer-led organisation which so far has seen over 350,000 UK residents run. It is now spreading internationally – watch out for it and support it if it comes to your hometown.
I registered for Parkrun about two years ago but have never got round to doing one. I was badgered into doing it by my 11-year old daughter Matilda. She has never run 5k non stop and wanted to have a go and I was a very willing accomplice.
Matilda and I turned up at Charlton Lakes with about 100 others on a glorious sunny Autumn morning and we had a great time. We ran at her pace and God bless her, she ran every step of it – not one walk break. In spite of a lot of back chat and abuse aimed at her Dad in the last kilometre, I was super proud of her.
There was only one reward for an achievement of that magnitude – we drove home via the Drive-Thru MacDonald’s and had a large strawberry milkshake. The recovery meal of champions!
Continuing the fun theme, my oldest friend from school, Dan, came to stay this week from Geneva where he lives. Dan is a larger than life character and he exploded into our house on Wednesday evening. If he had visited five weeks ago, I would have drunk water all evening and been in bed by 10.00am. But now I am man who is recuperating, so he and I sat at the dinner table until 2.30am drinking, chatting and laughing (on a school night too!). I tell myself that relaxation is another crucial element of my season’s recovery program – but I think on this occasion I got too relaxed and I paid for it. The hangover the next morning measured 8.2 on the Richter Scale!
Despite the fun of seeing Dan and of doing Parkrun with Matilda, the highlight of my two weeks was a more meaningful and serious event. A good friend of mine has been recovering from a destructive addiction. Thursday of this week marked 100 days without a drink . Just reading the message I got from them brought tears to my eyes. I am so proud of them.
I have taken on some hard physical challenges over the last few years but they are my choice and in a funny way I really enjoy them. But they are absolutely nothing compared to this challenge. I have more respect than I can describe for the way this person has turned things around.
There by the grace of God go all of us and it was a reminder to count my blessings.