Lately, I’ve been able to commit myself to a more minimalist approach to training. As an multi-sport athlete, I’ve always found it difficult to focus my training on one or two things. Instead, I’ve found myself always jumping around, never giving enough time to any particular method to make much headway. Alternatively, I’ve toyed with trying to do everything all the time, and quickly burned myself out.
Instead, by limiting the time I can train, I am finding myself more motivated to give a good effort in the less time that I do train. When there is less to do, and less time to do it in, you will push yourself to make the most of what time you do have.
In my case, I always want to do more. Every day, I have to hold myself back from practicing the Olympic lifts, doing handstand work, practicing my tumbling, and doing a brutal CrossFit metcon. If I did all of these things everyday, I’d destroy my body very quickly. But more importantly, I wouldn’t have the energy to really do a good job on any one thing. Because I’d know there was more to do, I would hold something back.
My recent approach has been to keep myself from doing too much, so that I have energy to dedicate to the things that I am doing. The result has been that I actually progress faster, simply because I work harder when I do work. Knowing that I get plenty of rest and recovery gives me the mental support I need to push myself when it is time to get to work.
I think the biggest change is developing a strong reverence for my rest days. If I get everything done I want to do, that’s awesome. I get to rest, and I deserve it. If I don’t get everything done, I take my rest anyway, so that I can hit it hard and make up for the missed training.
From the other point of view, knowing that I have a rest day (during which I will rest completely) means that I commit to my training days. Even if it means going into the gym late at night, I make the most of the time I have because when the rest day comes around, I’m committed to take it easy.
This attitude can be extended to other areas of life as well. If you make a solid commitment to do no work after 6pm, you work hard up until that point. The time you have to actually get stuff done becomes valuable and sacred, but only as long as you treat the time you have to rest with just as much reverence. Just like you have unbreakable work commitments, you should have unbreakable recovery commitments.
For some people, these recovery breaks can be time spent with family. In other cases, they can be dedicated to your own personal care. I like to totally relax, spend as much time reading and sleeping as I can, and generally be lazy. That is my reward to my body for working hard when it is time to work.
Respect your rest and recreation, so that you respect your work. If one part of the equation comes loose, the other will lose its importance.