On a Sunday morning in February after a particularly frustrating addition to my competitive losing streak, I woke up to the following message in my email inbox:
I want you to know that efforts have not gone unnoticed. You have done a great job progressing throughout the year. Today’s Che would have killed the Che of October, however the odds are stacked against you. You are competing against many guys that were state place winners and others that have been exceptional wrestlers since they were 6 years old. There is a learning curve in college wrestling. I know it will not and should not make you feel better about your losses, but understand it may take time to overcome your disposition. Keep focus on getting better everyday in the room and wrestling to or above your potential on the weekends. Do not be outcome oriented, rather be performance oriented. Continue to close the gap on your competition and you will be great shape in the future.
I see you in practice.
Those words were important and certainly encouraging, but the message initially didn’t sink in the way that it was intended to. Instead of taking my foot off the gas to recover like I should have, I strove to work even harder than I already was in order to finally break through and beat my competition.
Towards the end of practice one day, we ran up and down what felt like endless flights of stairs in the gym stadium. Our legs burned. Our lungs gasped for air. Our hearts seemed to beat strong enough to make our t-shirts drenched in sweat shake ever so slightly. After what seemed like an eternity (in reality this took place over a little less than 15 minutes), Coach Brian blows the whistle. We talk very briefly after practice, do a team cheer, and go on our separate ways for the night. While I unlace my running shoes to get back into the wrestling room, Coach Taylor comes up to me.
I confirmed this with Coach Brian. He agreed and said it was possible that my body could use some recovery and I wasn’t giving it enough time to heal over the grind of the wrestling season.
Long story short, they kicked me out of the wrestling room as soon as practice was over that week. No extra shadow wrestling, no extra sprints, no extra running… just going straight to the showers after practice.
In my efforts to work harder than anyone I could think of, I had run my body to the ground because I neglected to recover. It took two insightful coaches to remind me that working hard and working smart are, in isolation, only effective to a certain point. Eventually you need both in order to reach the highest levels. Taking a step back to think and regain perspective was also a powerful practice, and getting an email affirming just how far I’d come despite my losses reassured that.
Soon thereafter, I broke my losing streak.
This raises an interesting question: Are you taking your recovery as seriously as you are taking your training?
Or, will you have to wait until your body is burnt out and your coach kicks you out of the practice room so that you finally have no choice but to recover?