Is it in your best interest to stay in top shape all year round? Unlike most of the questions that have been addressed here before, the answer to this can be a simple, NO! It is important to take care of your body at all times, but this does not mean that you need to stay in tip-top shape all year long. Even the top athletes in the world take some time off. This time off is necessary to allow your body to recover and heal from the all of the physical stress you have put it through during the last season. It is also a great time to catch up on sleep and deal with other stresses in your life. Most athletes will take anywhere from two weeks up to a month off when the season is over to allow themselves to heal and get ready for the next season. During this time, it is a great opportunity to indulge on some of the treats you may steer clear of during race season. It is a time to stray from your diet and live without the stress of racing. It is very important during this time off to simply not train as well! You will have plenty of time to prepare for the next season but it is necessary to take time completely off! Now this is only for a maximum of one month out of a year leaving us to focus on the other eleven months so let's see if we can figure those out as well.
So the thought is if you can maintain your top physical shape during the rest of the season, you will definitely be the fastest you have ever been correct? Incorrect. Cyclists refer to being in top shape as walking on the blade of a knife, you can only stay balanced on that small surface for so long before you fall off. If you look at cyclists, you will notice the change in body shape for them over the season. Early season races sees the main contenders a little on the heavier side. Although physically they are already very strong, they are not slimming down their bodies and forcing them to work with minimal nutrition. Cyclists are providing their bodies with all the nutrition it will need with the knowledge that they have a long season ahead. It is impossible to spend extended amounts of time on the "blade of the knife". You are putting so much physical stress on your body through training and also trying to limit the caloric intake which in return doesn't allow you enough nutrition to continue to do what you are doing for an extended period of time.
So how do you know when to start getting into tip-top shape? The answer for everyone is going to vary on what their goals are for the year. It is also going to depend on the length of the season for the athlete. If you have a long season such as in cycling, triathlon, or running, it is possible to do it a few times during the season, usually when you are approaching your "A" race. For most athletes with a long season, there will usually be two points in their season where they will be competing at their so called "A" races. This will usually be earlier in the season and then towards the end, if not the last race of their season. The reason behind this is after the first "A" race of the season, they will go back into a rebuilding phase which will continue to build up to their next race and before entering this phase again, they will give their body adequate time to recover. During recovery it is important to take in calories to allow your body to rebuild fast and with all the nutrients it needs. During the season, these calories should be healthier such as fruits and veggies.
It is impossible to stay in top performance year round, all athletes will peak for certain races and then go back into a training regime where they are not at their peak performance. If athletes tried to stay in peak performance all year, their body would not receive the nutrients and would not be able to rebuild muscle which would in turn make it so all of their hard work would not pay off as their muscles would not be able to rebuild. This is why it is important to be smart about your training and to make sure that you take care of your body.
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