Mac Wilkins: Give Yourself A Break

(Note: Mac Wilkins competed in the throws for 23 years, he made four Olympic teams and broke the world record in the discus four times. He also won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Now he is a teacher of throwing and the head throws coach at Concordia University in Portland).

By now most high school track athletes are taking a break from track. Some are enjoying vacation time and others are getting ready for another sport.

In any case a break is MANDATORY. After every peak performance or season there is a period of recovery and rest that the body needs, physically and emotionally. Top sport is all about minimizing the recovery time to have more work or peak performance time. The sophisticated training/monitoring systems are very precise about not letting athletes train hard UNTIL they are fully recovered. That is a matter of efficiency that Olympians wrestle with, BUT THEY ALL HAVE DOWN TIME after the season or peak performance.

I am absolutely blown away by the lack of yearly recovery time in the schedules of high school and even D1 college athletes. Two weeks a year is not enough. It's insane. Olympians in their prime take 4-6 weeks of active recovery per year before starting the yearly training with a fitness period.

You aren’t ready to start the next training cycle or sport until you are really hungry.

During the active rest, goof off. Try to NOT think about your sport or skill. Do fun things. Don’t lie on the couch all day every day. Stretch and be active, just not with things you do year round with your sport. It's OK to do nothing all day. It's OK to go on a 50-mile bike ride, hike all day or volunteer your time to help others. Your mind needs a break also.

But if you must think about your sport...

Make a list of things you want to do differently and things that worked well.

Review your goals for the last year and pencil in next year’s goals.

Outline a schedule of training for the year including your big competitions.

Watch your event on YouTube studying the technique and rhythm of the athletes.

Find, save and store video, articles or photos that are motivating.

Trust that during the active rest period your body is growing and getting a year stronger and you are getting a year more mature technically.

Enjoy the rest, there will be more than enough hard work when the training starts.

What is the best thing for you to be doing right now for an optimal performance next season?

Rest, don’t think about it, have fun.