row2k Features
The Holiday De-Training Challenge
December 28, 2015
Ed Hewitt,

While elite rowers are grinding it out pretty steadily toward Tokyo, and some folks got a few ritualistic 'day of' holiday strokes in, most of us didn't seen a footstretcher of any kind fir a week or so at least over the holidays. Even the C2 Holiday Challenge is over, so even folks who did that are undoubtedly taking well-earned breaks from the machine.

A break in a training macrocycle is often a good thing, but if you are wary of letting it go on too long, you have good reason to be concerned. Because This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Going To The Gym (illustrated with Homer Simpson memes, natch).

Among the unsavory effects of bailing on workouts for too long:

  • Veins and arteries stiffen within a month, increasing blood pressure
  • Oxygen in working muscles can decrease by 20% within two weeks
  • Muscle mass decreases within two weeks
  • Your brain shrinks, and risk of depression seems to increase
  • Blood sugar levels increase in less than a week

Obviously deep de-training will also hurt progress toward your future training goals, but if you aren't ready to get back on the machines or in the boat, here are a few options for keeping things fresh to give your brain a break while keeping your body on track.

  • Crosstrain
    This is obvious enough, but can require some planning, as walk-in gyms are rare, going biking on icy roads is dangerous, going running in foot-deep snow is brutal, borrowing snowshoes from neighbors unlikely, etc. Get ahead of things a little by having a plan.
  • When you do, do so in a different environment than your usual workouts.
    If you want to avoid the rowing machine, also avoid the rowing machine room; even if you are doing the same workouts, doing them in a different location will help you feel like it's not the same old routine.
  • Play games
    When I was training with a group of folks years back, our winter schedule included two hours of full court basketball every Sunday. It was intense, fun, and exhausting, and was definitely not a "day off."
  • Train with friends
    Putting in heaps of solo km gets old for even the most dedicated trainers; find some company and the time and km will pass more quickly, and feel more novel than yet another session with only the sound of a spinning wheel
  • Train "outside"
    The effects of short days on our general sense of well-being are well-known, so to avoid burning up precious daylight hours in a gym or basement, think about setting up your stationary bike, rowing machine, etc. in front of an open garage door, on the porch, etc. getting in a indoor workout without actually being indoors can be refreshing.
  • Train with media
    For some folks, erging in front of a TV, or listening to podcasts, or with headphones seems like too much stimulation, but for a week or two in the dead of winter, you might give it a try. It might help also to…
  • Synch workouts with entertainment
    Instead of doing "60' of steady state," or "X x Y' of AT," try this instead: one podcast of steady state; row AT from one commercial break to the next - or make it like a drinking game, steady state until a touchdown, flat out until the extra point goes through the posts, etc. The point is to let your other interests dictate your training for a bit instead of the other way around.
  • Take it down a notch
    If the short-term goal is mainly to avoid detraining, you can get away with lower volume, lower intensity, and less focus than during "normal" training. Doing perhaps half of your usual training will usually keep detraining at bay.
  • Remember anything can qualify as "training."
    A long walk with your dog, soccer drills with your kid, shoveling a long driveway, sledding for two hours, mowing the lawn (in some places this winter, this is still in the mix) – all of these can qualify as "training" if the main goal is simply to avoid "detraining."

Your inner Homer Simpson will thank you for it (and if that doesn't work, remember that the CRASH-B is two months from today...)

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