One of the key aspects to the rejuvenation of rest is the mental rejuvenation you experience when you relax your expectations of yourself and turn off the nagging, competitive personality that sits on your left shoulder whispering, or shouting, in your ear.
You may find tuning that voice out the most challenging aspect of rest, but it is one of the most valuable. Eventually, if you try to race at peak fitness year-round, the fatigue up top will become as overpowering as the fatigue in your thighs. In Gould’s experience, “to keep the same pressure on myself all year is as unsustainable mentally as it is physically.”
When Gould was suffering from mono, she explained, “I started thinking, ‘maybe I just ran out of fast.'” That inner voice caused her to push her body past its capacity in an effort to be faster. In the end, what actually paid off was relaxing her inner monologue and her body. When Gould podiumed for the first time after a week of rest, her outlook went from believing cyclocross would never be for her to feeling like “suddenly racing became fun again.” Having a fresh outlook on the start line will add kick to your stroke, while dwelling on past performances will drag you down.
“A lot of racers tend to be very Type-A and can be really hard on themselves,” said Gould. When asked how to combat the inclination to push past our own breaking point, Gould suggested that it helps to have a mentor to help bring you down and encourage you to take more of a break. Even if you don’t have a coach, sometimes it pays to listen to the people around you trying to tell you to back off the training for a moment.
Furthermore, keep that voice in check at all times by maintaining a sense of humor. Whether you are in your off-season or in the heat of your most important race, lighten the mood. “Heckling was about having fun with it,” said Gould. “It felt in the spirit of ‘cross. It’s miserable and hard, and I wanted to have something to keep the race exciting no matter how I was feeling or doing,” Gould told Singletrack.com. She found that the heckles allowed her to laugh in the worst of times, even while running her bike an entire lap.
Gould began the #heckleme campaign in the hopes that an attitude adjustment would improve her performance. In actual fact, her standings did not improve as a result of the jokes the campaign inspired, such as inflatable doll “cop-a-feel-ups” and choirs serenading “All by myself,” but it helped her keep perspective on her true motivations for racing by keeping it fun, and gave other racers and spectators a new level of permission to enjoy themselves, as well.