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Professional triathlete Melanie McQuaid discusses the importance of recovering mentally during your training cycle.
Written by: Melanie McQuaid
Many athletes believe the most effective recovery modalities are those that focus on physiological regeneration—nutrition, hydration and activities like ice baths, physical therapy, massage and yoga. There is no arguing that these are very important for regenerating the body for the next planned training session, but what about your mind?
The very core of becoming an athlete was born of motivation and inspiration. So what happens when that passion and motivation are drained? Most athletes know that mental state affects performance as much as your level of fitness. Research has shown that the key markers of overtraining or staleness in training, aside from poor performance, are mood and emotions.
After your next block of training, monitor more than just the feeling in your legs. If you’re feeling mentally drained or restless, follow this checklist to help manage mental and neuromuscular fatigue:
1. Get adequate sleep. Sleep does wonders to regenerate the mind. The central nervous system is critical to high-performance athletics and it needs time to repair. This happens when you are sleeping, so try to get enough hours per night or add naps.
2. Constantly self-monitor. Ask yourself, “Do I feel like doing this?” If you don’t, take a break rather than force yourself to train and further drain your body and mind.
3. Meditation. Regeneration of the mind will occur during relaxation. A lot of visualization techniques are also very valuable for relaxing and centering the mind and body. By refocusing you can find your purpose and motivation within a training cycle, which will help you sort through distractions and stress.
4. Prioritize. Life goes on during a training cycle. You need to remain flexible. If, for example, you are constantly procrastinating a responsibility outside of training it could be weighing on you and adding stress. Make the time to get it done and you will find you can get back to training with better focus.
5. Periodize. Planning major training weeks when you have conflicting responsibilities at home or work is not wise. You can only handle so much stress, so plan to train harder when work, school or life has enough room for the increased training load.