Since I've been holed up recently, I've had a lot of time to look back over my 5 year training cycle.
When I started this plan, I knew (research has shown) that taking "off years" is as important as taking an "off season". Looking over personal commitments, work, volunteer work & my sons' schedules (as well as all the other things that going along with having a life), I realized 5 years ago that the cycle would work best if I can schedule my lowest training years with the highest commitment years.
Afterall, training for Ironman is one of the most selfish races a person can do. The commitment from family and friends is critical. The training hours are long. Family & friends know they won't see your for weekends. You'll be gone in the morning before they are even awake. Training time & quality family time....don't exactly mix. If you have small kids, it's a huge burden for the spouse at home who finds themselves doing more than their share of housework.
As it turned out, my "off year" matched up perfectly with this year (2010), the year that I've had increased hours of work & increased personal commitments. The year that I don't have to get up early on weekends to head to a race was the year that I had to get up early to drive crazy distances to baseball tournaments, tennis tournaments, attend school events, work longer hours, get JMan to early morning football camp, and the list goes on and on and on. Getting up at 6am and crashing at 10pm....well, I was pretty happy that I didn't have any races schedule that I risked missing.
The reality is that you only have one opportunity to raise your kids. If there is a year that they require more from me then I'm going to give it. I couldn't imagine having missed Jman's baseball state championship WIN because I had a race to do that day. Missing the winning run, witnessing him playing the best game of his life? No way. No race finish is worth missing that.
That's the background. What do I mean when I say: I'm taking a year off? Does it mean I'm sitting around doing nothing? Hardly. It's a year where racing is reduced & training can take on many different forms. The point is to give your mind and body a break.
I've been criticized for this. I've been questioned. I *think* people/friends/associates forget that I have a Master's degree in Exercise Science, certified in Sport Psychology & was (until I did not re-certify recently) an NASM certified trainer.
Education aside, why would I do something that would negatively affect my health or training?
I justified it this way:
1.) Many people are paranoid about their weight. Without "racing", they won't exercise and their weight will increase and/or they will put on what they lost. I don't have that problem. I've been at the same weight for the most part since high school. (Pregnancy weight came off pretty quickly).
2.) The ego-battle. I don't use racing and training to define who I am. Distances, speeds, races I've done mean nothing compared to what I have accomplished outside of athletics. In other words, I think I'm a pretty cool person whether or not I race. I don't have any empty spaces that I fill by doing race after race. I used to ask *clients* "Why are you doing this?" People always give the answer they think they are supposed to give instead of probing deep inside.
3.) They are Type A personalities and jump from goal to goal without taking time to enjoy life, laugh at themselves or otherwise appreciate the journey. Symptoms of Type A Behavior: Time urgency and impatience, easily irritable, can become easily hostile (think road rage or the person behind you honking when the light turns green), which can be triggered by even minor incidents. Competitive, achievement oriented--causing them to become stressed due to wanting to be the best at whatever it may be i.e. sports or in work. Btw--Type A personalities are more susceptible to health problems such as heart attacks & sports related injuries.
So, I've patiently answered questions about (aren't you afraid of gaining weight? No. Aren't you afraid of getting slower? No. Aren't you afraid of losing focus? No. Aren't you afraid of not getting a PR? No. No. NO.)
I've learned that these questions are more about THEM than they are ME. What they don't understand is that because I'm taking a year off, I WILL be stronger, faster, leaner & have better focus.
Last year in particular, I was getting tired of getting up early to do races. I didn't want the pressure of doing a workout because I had a race coming up.
This year, I've slept in on Sunday/Saturday mornings. If I didn't feel like swimming that day, I went hiking or did some strength training or did what I felt like doing.
The most important piece of this is that I now WANT to race again. I am looking forward to focusing on training, nutrition & going long again.
The timing was perfect. I'm in a place where I want to do Ironman again. My sons are older. Next year, they will both be driving, and my taxi requirements will be significantly reduced. On a personal level, my focus is back, and I'm stronger than I've been in previous years. I'm not doing it because I have anything to prove. I'm not doing it to impress the masses. (I'm not someone who feels the need to list out my accomplishments to strangers). I WANT to do it.
Most importantly, I have family support. The boys are teenagers. They don't need Mr. Tea to make them breakfast and lunch while I'm out training. They don't need us to drive them around or entertain them. We've attended their practices, games, tournaments, events at school. We've supported them through their academic accomplishments.
Now, they support me in mine.
Taking a year off might be something for you to think about...but only if you want to come back faster, stronger & more focused than in previous years.
Go ahead ask me questions but don't criticize me for doing things differently than you.
See you at the starting line....