• The Importance of Rest

    I have just come off the back of 16 days of doing absolutely no exercise, apart from the odd walk here and there. I arrived back from Auckland a totally broken athlete and was so excited to have some rest and catch up on quality time with my friends and husband.The first week was wonderful and I didn’t think about training at all. I went into the countryside with my husband and took long walks in the crisp, autumn air and ate lots of beautiful food and drank lots of delicious red wine. After 10 days I started itching to do something and after 2 weeks I was definitely ready and raring to go, a totally different picture to 16 days prior. This got me thinking about writing a blog on this topic and how extremely important rest is for us athletes – something that we sometimes think of as unnecessary and often take foregranted.

    I started my season in March and completed it at the end of October. I’ve worked out that I raced nearly every 2 weeks during those 8 months and travelled the equivalent of 4 times around the world in doing so. The 2 weeks prior to me leaving for Auckland were 2 of the most testing of my career as a professional athlete. I had achieved my ultimate goal for the year which was the Olympic Games and had had many other great results throughout the year. It was an extraordinarily stressful year of racing. I had left my qualification for the games pretty late and was trying to race all over racking up points and adhering to my country’s qualification criteria which was to be ranked in the top 1-48 on the Olympic qualification list. Every race I went to had a massive amount of pressure. Once I’d been selected for the games in July it was then a matter of preparing for the biggest race of my life less than a month later. The Olympics were incredible and after a bout of post Olympic blues I got back on my horse and decided that I wanted to finish the year ranked as highly as possible in the World Champs Series. I’d done all the training, had regained motivation and was not quite ready to pack in the season as early as August. In addition, a lot of our funding is decided upon according to rankings and this meant it was necessary to carry on for financial reasons.

    2 weeks before Auckland all my training partners and my club (coach excluded-poor James works all year round….he needs a holiday!) packed up and went on their annual winter end of season break. The weather was turning nasty and it was a long, cold, lonely 2 weeks. I would arrive at the swimming pool and sit in the changeroom and burst into tears and would have to talk myself up to go and get the sessions done, which I did. I went swimming in a lake that was 10 degrees on my own and would shiver for an hour afterwards trying to warm up –all in preparation for the cold water in Auckland. I spent hours in Richmond Park riding up hill upon hill upon hill often in the pouring rain on my own practising for the hills to greet us on the course in Auckland. It was thus totally heartwrenching during the race in Auckland when I got dropped out of my pack up the 2nd hill and rode the rest of the course with 1 other girl. It was heartwrenching and embarrassing – I knew I was capable of better. I also knew that something was not right. I’d done the training and there is no reason why I should not have performed – after all, I was 10th in Yokohama just 3 weeks prior. My body had other ideas and I can honestly say that both mentally and physically I have never needed a break so badly. I have also never been so excited to arrive back in cold, grey London knowing I had 2 weeks off to look forward to.

    Thus the vital importance of that end of season break. Whether you are an age group athlete trying to hold down a fulltime job and train, or a pro, your body and mind both need to take a proper rest at the end of the season. It’s the time to catch up with friends, family,admin, movies you haven’t seen, beers you haven’t drunk or whatever else. Trust me, the benefits are massive – your body and spirit will feel rejuvenated and you’ll feel all the more spritely for it once you knuckle down for that winter training again!

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