Spring Break: The Importance Of Rest & Recovery In Training

I know that not every school is on spring break next week, as some already had theirs. But since most schools are on spring break, it seemed like a good time to talk about why we need to recover during our training. And no, this is not going to be heavy on the science of the physiological effects of recovery on the human body. I think the basics will be be just fine here. In short stress + rest = growth. You stress your body with training, and then you rest to let it grow and be stronger for next time. I just want to keep the science that simple for today. But that's also kind of my point, what seems so simple can often times end up not being simple. And that can have very negative effects on an athlete's development as the season goes on. So when you're resting, are you actually resting?

We've all seen athletes be at their best in March. But the goal is to be at your best in late April/May (or perhaps, June) as you pursue top performances at the region meet, state meet, or even a national meet. So what gets in the way of that? A variety of factors, but I think not resting enough over the course of a long season is near the top of that list. I could sit here and criticize "kids these days" for being on their phones way too late at night watching TikTok videos instead of getting their much needed sleep. And while there's truth to that on a day to day basis, the fact is that there was always something keeping me up later than I needed to be in high school, well before smart phones were a thing. It's true that all of that missed sleep does add up over time, and it can very much affect your workout the next day. But the reality is that athletes are people, not machines. And making everything in your life revolve around your training at the age of 16, 17, or 18 can have just as many negative effects as watching a few too many TikTok videos. The stress of needing to perform perfect when you "live perfect" can also cause you to not get enough true rest, even if you're sleeping enough. Stress is stress and rest is rest. Your body doesn't know the difference. 

So no, I'm not going to sit here and say that "you have to get ______ hours of sleep every night to perform at your best." That's an article for some scientist who is much smarter than I am. I'm just trying to tell you that it's important to find a way to rest both on a day to day basis and also throughout the season. And we've got a huge opportunity here with spring break coming up this next week. Spring break is that holiday that (almost) all of us look forward to the entire month of March. There are often countdowns on classroom white boards that the teacher leaves up because they're counting down the days just like the students. It's an incredible opportunity in our lives every season to relax, have fun, and rest. But not everybody does enough resting over spring break.  The problem with spring break as an athlete is that it also provides an opportunity in your schedule to go travel, often to the beach as that's the closest and easiest thing to get to given our location. There's nothing wrong with the beach, but are you truly resting once you get there? Spending 10 hours a day baking in the sun for 5 days straight can be draining in its own way. And trying to train while draining your energy that much everyday can be incredibly hard. So I would encourage everybody to find the time to truly rest while on vacation, even if that means you train a little less than you're used to. I think it's less important to try to hit certain times on the intervals you run while on spring break and more important to just focus on catching up on recovery and rest while you're there. Dion't skip the training, just don't stress about the times you hit.

The other thing that spring break offers to us all is a chance to reset. This is a huge break in our schedules from both racing and from school. This is a major opportunity to just reset your body before you come back for the big championship push. And it would be great to view it that way, as a big reset. You (hopefully) don't have any homework for the next 9 days of your life, take advantage of that opportunity to reset your brain. You probably will go about two weeks without any racing or competing in your life. While the competition is what we all do the training for, it's also the thing that takes the biggest toll on our body. And with Georgia's unique track and field schedule, we often cram a little too much competition into the month of March as it's the best time to chase PR's with February being fairly cold and April being a focus on prepping for region. So a lot of athletes can get PR's right before spring break, but to continue chasing them on spring break is often a fool's errand. So the lack of competition for the next two weeks or so is usually a good thing to help give your body a big reset. Take advantage of that. You've done enough competing so far, and you've hopefully learned from those experiences. Now take this time to get your mind and body rested and recovered so that you can be at your best when it matters most.

But also, don't forget that life is not all about school. Life is not all about the sport. Life is not all about the social drama that lives in every high school. Take this time to have some fun too. You deserve that after all of the hard work you've put in at school and on the track or in the ring or at the pit. You should have fun over spring break. Just don't forget the purpose is to rest, not stress yourself even more. Stress + rest = growth.