I awoke this morning at my customary 4:50 am. Within +/- 5 minutes you can usually count on me waking up at 4:50 am. Why 4:50? Probably the same reason all my staff meetings are scheduled for 9:17 am (or 10:43 am, etc…). I awoke with my dog’s face staring at me. His walks aren’t until 6:36 so he just wanted to make sure I was up.
Today’s workout plan was a double cross-training session – 15 minutes on the rowing machine followed by 30 minutes on the stationary bike. It’s an OFF day from running and a nice way to stay cardio-ed without the abuse. But today, I just wasn’t feeling it. The body and the mind said, ‘total OFF please’. Ever hear Asics’ new slogan? Sound Body, Sound Mind. Sound OFF!
There are two types of OFF days (actually, three, but we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs). Today was an unplanned OFF day. I’d run fairly hard yesterday and planned on a longer run tomorrow, so today was a good day to cross train. But I just wasn’t into it. There are days when you just need to listen to what the machine is telling you, and my machine needed another cup of tea.
The other type of OFF day is one that has been scheduled into the training grid. These days are necessary to continue to train at your best. My training grids shifted from a 7-day plan to a 10-day plan years ago. A 10-day plan allows for more recovery and flexibility. Two days off every 10 days helps the body (and mind) recover. Two days off every seven is too much and one day off isn’t enough. No, it’s not cheating.
Something I have always preached (as it was preached to me in my younger days) is that rest is a part of the plan and not a deviation from it. Even those odd unplanned OFF days are the wisdom come to fruition of knowing when the mind/body machine just needs some extra downtime.
Now, about that third kind of OFF. The training equation, universal truth for all athletes is the following: effort + recovery = improvement. It doesn’t matter if you’re a miler or a marathoner, a plodder or a speedster. Without the recovery, eventually the machine starts to break down beyond its ability to heal and recover. And guess where injuries come from?
In 2005, I was having some kind of year. I’d just turned 41 and was really layering on the training. I ran two marathons that year, was averaging 48 miles a week, with 60 mile build-ups, and had just missed a sub 17 minute 5k. BUT… the aches, the discomfort and the lack of OFF days finally took me out. TWO stress fractures (motrin much?) and six months OFF.
So when your 4:50 am alarm clock goes off (internal or otherwise), and it’s just not there, don’t force it. The key is to listen and learn how to decipher between the machine and the friendly dog licking your nose. But always err on the side of machine (and the dog).
I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails!