Saturday, August 23, 2014

Listening to your body: don't fear the days off!

I'll be the first to admit that the title of this post would have been super hypocritical of me to use at this time last year. I admittedly am a pretty stubborn person, and Ryan will tell you that taking days off is extremely hard for me. I just don't like to and feel like a blimp the next day that I return to running (or swimming or biking). I never realized that sometimes mentally you need the rest, too.

The past two weeks since Steelhead have been a whirlwind to say the least.

Over the summer, I always feel a bit jipped in terms of time I get to spend with Ryan. Yes, teaching summer school is 100% my choice (which I never regret as it allows me the chance to build relationships with my struggling students prior to even having them in class!); however, working for PowerBar, Ryan's busiest time of the year is in the summer as well, so teaching a whopping 4 hours Monday through Friday for five weeks really isn't the cause of me not being able to spend time with Ryan (okay, 6.5 hours if you include plan time pre-/post-teaching plus driving, but still, not a lot!).

SO, I told Ryan to find a block of time that he could request off of work and I would be taking him on a vacation to which the destination would remain a mystery until he obtained his boarding pass at the airport. Long story short, when Ryan and I first started dating 7ish years ago, he had told me he always wanted to go to the San Diego Zoo. I've kept that in my mind and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take him to the place he's always wanted to visit.

With summer school ending on July 18th and school starting on August 20th, we didn't really have many dates to choose from. In terms of work, the only time that Ryan could afford to take off was literally the week before I would start teaching. I cringed at that thought, but kept telling myself how awesome the trip would be.

After some fun celebrations post-Steelhead, we arrived home super late at night on Sunday, August 10. Our flight was at 1pm on Monday, August 11, so it was a pretty quick turnaround...but being the overly anal planner person that I am, I was already packed so that I could make sure to get my working out in prior to driving to O'Hare.

 LOVED the beautiful runs we were able to go on!
 Oh, just swimming in the ocean with leopard sharks and (gross) seals.
 Some of our favorites at the zoo. Silly elephants!
 We did a great job of indulging.
 And ordered some breakfast foods other than omelets...
 Lucky girl to call this guy my husband.
The whole purpose of the trip!

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking, but we absolutely LOVED San Diego. We kind of "let ourselves go" in terms of eating... MyFitnessPal was not used and we just acted like normal 20-somethings enjoying vacation.
Yep. Both bags full. And totally delicious.

Reality kind of set in for us when we returned home at 3:30am on Saturday, August 16. After many flight delays, this wasn't the best case since Ryan had to be at an event at 7am. We were also having photographs taken by the best photographer in the Chicagoland area, Ali Engin, at 10am. I had a 3hour bike ride planned, so headed over early to get 2 of those 3 hours in before the photo shoot.

Ali even noted in his blog recap (where you can see more awesome pics from this shoot!) that we were doing this on a busy schedule, having just arrived home at 3:30am, Ryan having to work, and then both of us going to a wedding at 4pm. It wasn't until I read it on his blog that I realized how busy our day had been. It then should have come as no surprise what happened next...

Wedding time!

After Ryan and I got home from the wedding, he wasn't feeling well. I figured we were both just exhausted from the day so didn't think much of it until he threw up. I crossed my fingers that it wasn't the flu and that I also hadn't caught it... but I wasn't so lucky. The next morning, Ryan and I woke up to ride 100miles, but neither of us made it that far. My stomach caused me to lay in bed in pain for a few hours after our morning coffee/PowerBar pre-ride breakfast. After I finally threw up, I told Ryan I was ready to go do my 100 miles.... if you are thinking in your head is Jacqui crazy? right now, that is totally acceptable and called for. 

The stubborn side of me wanted to get my 100mile ride in since school was starting on Wednesday and pushing the ride off until Monday would cost me a day of school work time. However, the newly found practical side of me realized that this 100-mile ride was kind of a big deal in terms of training, so resting and getting rid of the sickness was kind of important. I'll spare the details, but it was a good choice to rest. My nurse friend Jess told me I likely had food poisoning, not the flu, so that made me feel optimistic that I could get my 100-mile bike in on Monday.

After the 100-mile bike on Monday, I had a run following and it was amazing! I closed the last mile in a 5:55, so that indicated to both myself and Coach Jen that we were back in business and it truly was just food poisoning on Sunday. Unfortunately, the rest of the week would be very chaotic and break down my body more than ever. With teacher institute day on Wednesday and students on Thursday and Friday, I came home Friday night congested, with a sore throat, and simply exhausted.

Getting back to the whole reason for this post, Coach Jen has taught me the importance of listening to my body. I texted her bright and early this morning to let her know I was still congested, so it likely wasn't the pool's fault. She reminded me that taking a day to refresh is sometimes necessary, especially with the craziness of school starting back up for me this week. 

Even if you feel like you are superman/woman, the importance of resting cannot be stressed enough. The mind is an incredibly powerful tool: on my 100-mile bike ride, I was likely dehydrated given what my Sunday was spent doing. I know how it feels leading up to passing out, and I felt that a few times during my ride, but mentally reminded myself that drinking my fluids and eating my food would keep my body fueled and help get me through this. Outcome: I rode these 100-miles at a better speed and cadence than my last long ride. 

That being said, it is critical that we allow our minds to have breaks as well. Regardless of what you are training for, having rest days is so important so that you feel excited about what you are training for. So often, we go on auto-pilot and just stick to our training plans. This 100% described me up until this current cycle of training. I have taken more days off and "gone with the flow" more often than I ever have in my life. So far, I think I can say the results kind of speak pretty positively to the whole taking time off concept. 

Rest days, regardless of planned or not, can absolutely benefit any athlete in their long-term goals. Pushing our bodies mentally and physically is exhausting; recognizing that with a day off allows our bodies to rebuild and refocus. Adaptations to the training and improvement in performance can occur when you let your body recover properly. Plus, many injuries come from overuse, so having a day of rest can be good in terms of preventing overuse injuries. 

Rest days allow our bodies to repair, rebuild and strengthen the muscles that physically power us through our workouts. Our bodies can replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Not having this time can eventually lead to overuse injuries as the body is not getting the chance to ever fully repair those damaged tissues or replenish those energy stores. 

Rest days also allow our minds to appreciate the hard work that goes into the training so that we do not risk burning out. Our minds are so powerful, but we must train them properly so that our goals can be challenging yet possible. Rest days help us refocus our minds and rebuild our bodies. 

And on that note, I'm off to ride 110miles... kidding (though that does sound much more appealing than creating lessons!).

With the school year starting, I'm hoping to blog a few times each month still (mainly because I have received some incredible feedback, so thanks to those people!). Next blog will be recapping the HyVee 5150 US Championships race to take place on August 31st. Totally out of my comfort zone racing an Olympic tri versus an Ironman or 70.3, but sometimes you have to get out of that comfort zone and just compete!

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