Athletes, You Need to Take a Break

The competitions will always be there.

As an athlete, it’s easy to get wrapped up in competing. Fitness activities seem to be happening all over the place these days. I know I feel left out when I’m not participating in something. We always want to push the envelope and be better than yesterday. But why? Do the activities you’re doing align with your goals? Are you doing them for yourself, or are you doing them for others?

I recently decided to take a break from my competitive strongwoman career. After close to three years, I’ve competed in more than ten competitions. Included in this have been two national events, each followed by the Arnold World Championships. The only real break I had was when I broke my ankle.

After this last Arnold World Championship, I came home and immediately got bombarded with the question, “When’s your next competition?” “What are you training for now?” I found myself looking for the answer. I absolutely hated answering the question with, “I don’t know.” It took a few weeks of being sad, upset, and torn to finally decide that not knowing was perfectly okay. I was searching for an answer for other people, not for myself.

So to answer that question: I’m next. The answer is me. Not the next competition or PR, but me.

Take Time to Reflect

I’ve taken the past three months to work on me. I was able to focus on recovering from a past injury, spending more time with my daughter, getting home earlier in the evenings, and focusing on a few other goals, like passing my final term of chemistry. These things had nothing to do with training.

Having this time of reflection made me want to share a few tips for those of you who are struggling with taking a break:

  1. Find your why. Determine the reason behind your why and always pursue that.
  2. Make sure that what you’re chasing isn’t for anyone else but yourself. Is someone else pushing you towards your goals? Are your goals yours and yours alone? It’s easy to fall into the pattern of wanting to please your fans, friends, family, and especially your coach. Don’t mix their excitement for your success with the need to be always competing. If they’re in your corner they will understand shifts in goals and support you 100 percent.
  3. Ask yourself how long has it been since your last break. Our bodies need time to reset and recoup. That means lightening the load and frequency. The best athletes in the world take rest periods. Be nice to your body and learn to listen to it. Don’t wait until it’s screaming at you and you end up injured.
  4. Be selfish. Take time for yourself and don’t feel bad about it!
  5. Set new goals. Do you want to start doing more activities outside the gym? Lose weight? Commit thirty minutes a day to mobility? Read a book? Get that landscaping finished at home? Just because you’re not training towards a competition doesn’t mean you can’t be focused.

I know making the decision to take a break is scary. It’s change. It’s a new routine. It feels like we’re giving up something that is like oxygen. I put almost three years of blood, sweat, and tears into strongman. I felt like I was breaking up with the love of my life. Dramatic I know, but you get the picture.

Focus on what this break can do for you. Use it to discover yourself and unleash more potential. The competitions will still be there after your break, and you’re still going to be the great athlete you were before. Maybe you’ll be even better.