A break at the end of the year is good for everyone

31. October 2017

Recreational athletes rarely have it as good as professionals: They must trickily divide up their time besides their job if they engage in an ambitious athletic hobby. This is all the more the case since the demands in hobby sport have risen sharply in recent years. Training usually takes place according to a fixed training plan with ambitious goals, from which you don’t want to depart too quickly. The training scopes are frequently around ten or even more hours a week, and this in spite of a packed-full professional life. That such a situation calls for body and mind to have rest phases is probably clear to everyone. But the question is: When are rest and recovery needed and how much? 

The bad news. This has not been completely cleared up even today. The point when a body forced to perform athletically on a regular basis slowly drifts into exhaustion and how you can recognize this at an early stage are still the subject of contention – and generally scientific discussion. Although in this discussion not just physical performance is crucial, but also the mind, meaning mental acuity plays a decisive role. 

And it is precisely this aspect which constitutes a major sticking point, because especially ambitious hobby athletes are so motivated that they are very reluctant to take a break to rest, and are often plagued by a bad conscience about neglecting their physical shape. There is no rule as far as how many hours of training are too much. Some are exhausted at four hours a week of sport, while at the same time they find their professional and family lives too hectic and miss out on sleep, while others manage a harmonious balance with ten hours of training per week, because they can systematically incorporate periods of rest.

Active recuperation

It is therefore important for all athletically active people to throw overboard their habitual workout procedure at least once a year and go down new paths. This means: no exhausting training units any more or, ideally, no sport at all in the usual disciplines and the practice of many new forms of movement. These new activities may most certainly be selected in a manner (especially when your conscience is nagging at you) that allows you to work calmly and constantly on basic endurance (e.g. snowshoeing, skiing, winter hiking). But also stretching, aerobics, easy-going swimming or walks are known as active recovery measures, in which the body is exerted only very moderately and in an unusual way. 

An equally important role is also played by day-to-day content which for once has nothing to do with sport and provides the mind with new nourishment. Cinema, concert, reading, opera – there are many options! A fresh mind is also a prerequisite for top motivation and good performance, as well as a good physical constitution. It is therefore not uncommon for a “training break” period to cause people to realize that there are other important things in life and that sport should primarily be engaged in with proper balance, rather than as a way of life!

Passive recovery

Furthermore, in such cases you also can quite deliberately devote yourself to passive recovery measures that you would otherwise very rarely treat yourself to. These may include sauna, massage, sleep, steam, whirlpool or heat bath, but also relaxation techniques such as yoga or mental training, or a conscious diet. Passive measures improve not only your subjective well-being, but also the flexibility of your muscles. 

So treat yourself to a few weeks of recovery, rest and leisure for body and mind. You will come back stronger, with new energy and recharged batteries, and your fear of getting out of shape will prove unfounded.

Valuable cognitive work

It is equally valuable to take this time to analyse the past year. Think about what training system had what effect. When were you in shape, when did you feel good, when where you at more of a low point or did you have limited motivation? Try to pinpoint the associations, thus allowing you to manage your physical constitution as you so please.

In hobby sport, the art is not about constantly exercising more, but finding the clever alternation between strain and relief, and occasionally recharging your batteries. The aim is to increase training quality and at the same time to shorten the recuperation time again, so that you can set a reasonable training stimulus as soon as possible. And it is important after months of training to pause and plan carefully. Recuperation and training life go together just like Siamese twins, and if you’re short on time or in a rush, or out bad conscience or over-ambition you ditch the recovery phase, you’ll pay the consequences sooner rather than later. 

Have a good recovery!