Real Discipline – RECOVER

Last week we chatted about the false reality of chasing perfection and the need to strive for discipline over the ‘perfect prep’. Since then I have had lots of conversations with athletes about this and how the idea that they need to chase ‘perfect’ has led them down pathways ending in burnout, chronic fatigue and apathy for the sport they love.

That sucks.

Through most of these chats, we honed in the attention to what disciplines were in place or what needs to be established now, to help correct the ship.

Almost always – the missing link is recovery.

Triathletes – actually most endurance athletes – are notorious for falling for the notion that you must work hard to get the results; it’s all sweat, blood, tears and suffering. To them, discipline really means grinding yourself into a paste every session, every week, and then somehow you will pull yourself back together for race day.

It sounds insane, and it is. Results don’t come from working hard – anyone can bash themselves until they break. So what? Real endurance athletes know better; they work smart.

They still put the work in, and they certainly bring the intensity – but in the right doses, at the right times. And they definitely know when to back off. Understanding recovery a most valuable tool for athletes. Knowing that you need to turn the dial down a few clicks because you have the warning signs of a cold requires discipline. Ignoring those signs and pushing on only requires ignorance – and that is pretty easy!

Don’t get me wrong, I like to train my body hard. I love the pain, and I like the fatigue, I like not making it through super high-intensity workouts because I know it means I will grow as an athlete. I love the suffering. But – finally after all these years – I also know that it requires an incredible amount of discipline to make the smart calls and manage my recovery: training balance so that I can continue to see improvements.

It’s so easy to fall down that no-pian, no-gain rabbit-hole, but when you push your body too hard, for too long it simply stops responding; progress falls away, results start to wane, and you begin to crumble mentally. That sucks.

The body responds best with this straightforward approach:

-> Apply stimulus

    -> Recover

       -> Apply slightly increased stimulus

            ->Recover

                   -> Apply slightly increased stimulus

It’s progressive.

Repeat this over time, and the body develops those strength, endurance, power – whatever stimulus you have been applying. But it doesn’t work without the recovery:

-> Apply stimulus

-> Apply stimulus

-> Apply stimulus

-> Apply stimulus

-> Apply stimulus

You don’t move forward, you don’t progress. Without the time to recover, the body cannot meet the demands you are asking of it. It doesn’t matter how ‘hardcore’ or macho you are -inevitably the band will break, and that usually happens right before (or during) a big race.

Recovery is the ultimate discipline because it requires you to override the chatter in your head saying you haven’t done enough that you need more, more more. It’s that ability to call it, take a leisurely spin, walk the dog, whatever you need to do to come back with a little freshness. It enables you to push further.