I have been injured for 8 months now. For some of that time I’ve been able to do some training and even a little racing. But when I got my second injury (concussion) about 3 months ago on top of my preexisting chronic injury (whiplash) I stopped training altogether. (For the full story on my injuries check out my blog). So while everyone is talking about tapering and carbo-loading for Olympic distance triathlon nationals, Ironman Canada, and of course the Gran Fondo these past few weeks, I cannot really relate.
It is now the end of the competitive cycling and triathlon season. Soon, many of you will be in my shoes as you (hopefully) take a break before embarking on off-season training. I thought I would lend my expertise as a long-time non-training athlete to highlight some things that I previously took for granted as an athlete. Depending on the length of time you intend to take off you can either revel in these (if taking a week or two) or aim to avoid them (if taking a few months off) during your down time from sport.
You have to watch what you eat. I could not keep weight on when I was training twice a day everyday. It became incredibly annoying how hungry I was all the time and how much time and energy I had to put into eating constantly. I actually needed to eat junk food just to get enough calories. Now that I barely burn any calories I have to put energy into watching what and how much I eat. I don’t really earn junk food, yet I still crave it all the time. However, it is less embarrassing and cheaper now that I don’t order and eat two whole meals myself when going out for lunch though. So if taking an extended break this off-season, remember that you don’t need to stuff your face with carbs, you should probably eat smaller portions and you don’t really earn junk food.
Don’t forget to shower. When I’m training I shower when I sweat or get chlorinated, which has been nearly every day for most of my life (save exam periods where I admit I would skip running and showering for multiple days in a row). Showering every morning and night previously had actually made me forget that BO existed! Now that I don’t sweat everyday I actually forget that I should probably still shower every day. Maybe this one is just me, but its something to think about – your shower schedule doesn’t revolve around your workout schedule anymore.
Free time is overrated. Between training twice a day and doing my PhD, I had about enough “free time” to make dinner with my boyfriend after my second workout, eat and go to bed. Now I get home from school and have hours before I need to go to bed. I haven’t exactly figured this one out yet – I just don’t even know what nonathletes do on a regular basis after work and on weekends? I do suggest trying to find something to fill that void, especially if you are taking a prolonged break from training. Us motivated athlete types don’t do well with unstructured free time.
Have a social life. Previous to being injured I had to respectfully decline most social endeavours as I couldn’t stay up late due to early morning workouts and had to fit my 4-5 hours of daily training in on the weekends. Lately, I have been taking part in most invites I receive. I’ve been hiking, camping, BBQing, going out for drinks etc. I’m getting my fill now so that when I can train again I can be really focused. Taking sport seriously often does not allow for much of a social life. So make sure to make good use of your time away from sport to pack as much in as possible.
Enjoy your break from training!