Our Anti-Rest Culture – Excerpt from Macca’s “I’m Here to Win”

The following is an excerpt from Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win (p. 147-8), which I found especially interesting.  The guy has raced almost 2 dozen times each year at peak levels – in the last decade or so including multiple Ironmans in each of those seasons – and he’s never been substantially injured in his entire career.  Among other things, it seems, this comes from his mentality towards rest and recovery.  Read on…

An Anti-Rest Culture

A lot of the problems with triathletes’ training arise because they don’t address flaws in their training when they’re younger.  When they age,  their training is built around that “more is always better” idea, and injuries become inevitable.  You have to adapt your training as you age – not just in terms of your repetitions, but your entire approach.  That’s part of the advantage of experience.

It’s not easy to get other athletes to try my way, though, because ours is an anti-rest culture.  Heck, Western civilization is mostly anti-rest!  The sport has always been fearful of the word recovery, as thought needing to recover means you’re a big wimp who can’t take it.  If you know anything about fitness or exercise, you know that when you work out, no matter how tough you are, you tear muscle fibers and cause inflammation in joints and connective tissue.  Recovery lets those things heal.  Without it, you’re gonna get hurt, period.

If you are paying a coach to get you ready for a big race, then you are going to make that coach justify the cost of hiring him.  So if he says, “Today, you’re going to swim five kilometers and do speed training on the track, then tomorrow you’re going to rest,” you’re probably going to lose it.  “What?  Rest?  I’m paying you to tell me to rest?”  Too many athletes feel the need to justify themselves by how much they work.

It’s okay to rest.  I’ve said this in speeches and gotten standing ovations.  But in the modern world, that’s just not a popular idea.  Outside of sport, in business, people boast about getting only two hours of sleep and still going into work.  They’re stressed, they’re not sleeping, and they wonder why they feel like hell all the time.  It’s like the less you sleep, they more hardcore you are.  Translate that to the triathlete world and it’s “Look at me, I ran twenty kilometers yesterday after riding for six hours.”

That’s the monster that’s human nature.  We train to look good to other people, to look good to ourselves, to justify the cost of a coach, or as some sort of inoculation against the fear that we won’t have what it takes on race day.  But we rarely train for the only reason that matters: to be the best we can be in body and mind, and deliver our finest possible performance on race day, regardless of the result.

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