To be good, you have to attend practice daily and set goals. To be great, you have to be dedicated in practice, function at high intensity levels, and put in quality of work. To be elite, you have to be fully attentive, pay close attention to every detail of your performance, notice areas that need improvement, give maximal effort at maximal intensities, and continue to challenge yourself beyond belief. Ultimately working towards potential and not quota. This obviously creates mental and physical exhaustion. You hear this over and over, if you want to make it, you have to exhaust your resources. But how much is too much?
You risk injury and the ability to recover if you don’t take time off. There is no such thing as over-training many coaches will say, but there is such a thing as not enough rest in between. So while “no pain, no gain” still has value to it, when do you pay attention to what your body is saying? If you don’t give yourself the amount of time necessary to recover, you can’t perform at a steady state each time you get out there. If your body is not optimal, it can’t improve. If you can’t improve, you can’t be great or come close to elite. Your body will reject you, and since you only have one of these, maybe you should give it a little respect. Consistent “over-doing” it leads to overtraining, staleness, chronic fatigue, and eventually burnout. Not only will your body peter out, but your mind will start to rebel. Your sense of enthusiasm and motivation will dwindle.
Some athletes tend to think it’s all about the big picture, “I hurt now to be proud later” sound familiar? The thing is you have to give and take. If you don’t keep it innovative and fresh, you’re selling yourself short of your potential. It’s a common misconception that you can’t take a day off or someone will sneak past you. So we have to change our mindset. What if you took a day off of physical training and focused on visualization or relaxation training? You are now gaining the mental edge and allowing your body to catch up. Once you learn to utilize your time well, you can learn to take a full day away from your sport when needed. Resting, controlling your work habits, and allowing your time to be used elsewhere, lets the motivational juices keep flowing. Allowing your muscles to re-coop and avoid mental and physical burnout keeps you typically injury free and looking forward to progress and not dreading the next day.
Most people know they need to take time off, but do they really let themselves do other things? You need to put yourself in another completely different environment from time to time to enjoy and appreciate what you’re doing. So many young athletes quit early on because of intense exposure and sport being their only identity. Having another hobby outside of your sport helps actually make you a better athlete. It just allows your brain time off and allows you to have other things you identify with. You don’t want to ever find yourself running through the motions, or want to have an all or nothing mindset. Optimal quality over quantity practice and allowing recovery mentally and physically, keeps burnout from knocking at your door.