Following our success at the World Championships, our coaches gave the Canadian Women’s 8+ some time off. Well, to be technically correct, we were told that we had time “away from the centre” and that training was ongoing.
During my time off (I will choose to call it as such), I have always found it a fine balancing act between not letting myself go and letting my body physically and mentally recover from the hard racing season. In essence, this 3-week stretch is the only time you have to get ahead while everyone else is taking time off, but equally, it’s also the only time you have to heal an injury that has been an Achilles’ heel all season.
After a few days of intense fun and laziness following our racing in Bled, I reasoned that I should set myself two broad rules. First, time off is not time to be careless about your body; I didn’t want to become a pumpkin with slippers on come October 1! Second, I had to do things that pleased me; if a social activity came up and it meant I had to forfeit a workout, then so be it! These opportunities would be extremely rare in 2012.
There is no standard as to how time off should be spent, but if a bit of introspection into mine is of interest to you, then take note!
1. Sleeping in. My rowing practices are at 7:30 a.m., six days a week, 47 weeks a year; and so typically, I wake up at 6 a.m. During the month of September, I enjoyed waking up when my body was saturated with sleep. Waking up naturally, without the buzzer, meant that I started my day refreshed and full of energy.
2. Choosing what workout and when. I am sure most rowers will agree that this is by far the most satisfying element of taking time off from organized training. I CAN choose to do my workout at 10 a.m. and I CAN choose to do my workout at 7 p.m. No teammates will be waiting on me if I choose to delay. Similarly, I think its very important to vary your workouts and branch out from rowing and erging during this time. On most days, I elected to do one workout and my cardio was often a run. Since I was working on a different energy system, I was not unnecessarily pre-occupied with heart rates, speed intervals and intensity levels. For me, this was crucial part in giving myself a mental break from rowing while still keeping fit.
3. Listening to your body. For the second time in a short while, I came down with a cold with horrible sinus congestion. Had I been in training mode, I would have taken some decongestants and charged through the prescribed workout. But during time off, if I’m ill, then I’m ill. It doesn’t matter if I am sick. Most likely, my body is still hampered from the pressure and stress of World Championships and travelling.
4. Setting goals for the upcoming year. However you decide to approach your time off, whether you don’t do any workouts or a few, it is a MUST to set yourself some goals. Taking a step back from rowing and hard training allows you to get more perspective on your training and you are able to rationally look at the upcoming year. Did I train hard enough last winter? Do I need more speed work earlier in the season? What are the technical challenges that I should focus on? Sitting down and writing out your goals for the upcoming year is the single most important element of taking time off.
5. Have fun! Seeing my family and friends in Montréal has recharged my batteries for 2012! Knowing that I will not have an opportunity to return to Montréal until August 2012, it was important for me to spend quality time with family and friends and appreciate their company. My family and friends are my supporting pillars in my rowing career and throughout the year. I call them for advice, for inspiration or even for comforting thoughts. Seeing them and reconnecting face to face in September gave me a boost coming into 2012.
Its no secret that the Olympic year is the hardest year of training in any Olympic cycle. I am also expecting this upcoming year to be harder than my 2003–2004 and my 2007–2008 seasons. Looking back on this past September, I feel that I have spent my time off wisely and found a good balance between staying fit and recovering from 2011. If it’s any indication of a well-spent time off, I’m back at the center, itching to row and train hard!