The phrase "rest day" has never really made sense to me. It implies that you're training your butt off every day that isn't a "rest day." For me, and many others who aren't pro athletes or Olympians, this just simply isn't the case. And then you have those folks who still exercise on a so-called "rest day," arguing that cross-training, like a strength session or yoga, is like taking a break from the main activity of running, biking, or whatever.
You can see why I'm confused by and not a fan of the phrase. So I've essentially ignored the idea of a "rest day" because it didn't seem to fit my style of training for three days a week. That is, until last Sunday when I finally put the phrase to good use.
Saturday should have been a short, 50-mile day. The plan was to take the 7:44 a.m. MetroNorth train to Bear Mountain, climb the beast, then bike back to the city. My cycling friends, Angie (pictured) and Gemma, and I arrived at the base of the mountain around 10 a.m. and started pedaling skyward on fresh legs. It felt great, and at the top, the three of us were elated. None of us had ever biked up Bear so fast! We basked in that glorious moment for as long as we could before making the descent and continuing our ride home. From that moment on, things just went sour.
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It all started after a quick bathroom break back at the base of Bear, where Angie accidentally crashed her bike into mine, causing us both to fall hard. Thankfully, I didn't get hurt, but she did, ending up with a nasty road rash on her leg, a thorn in her shin, and a badly banged-up hip. Somehow she managed to dust herself off and continue the ride (she's so badass).
Then about four miles from there, I made a bad move on my bike, and unintentionally sliced my bike chain in half. We had to wait about 40 minutes for the local bike shop, Toga, to pick us up and take us back to their store for a quick fix.
Finally back on the road, we hit a nasty headwind that slowed us down to 12 miles per hour (that's a gruelingly slow pace!). I also noticed some shifting problems and had to stop at a second bike shop, Strictly Bicycles, for another check-up and quick-fix.
Once in the city, I had to rush downtown to pick up my race packet for Sunday's famous Five Borough Bike Tour (it would be my fourth time riding in the 32,000-person event around the city). Along the way, I got doored by a woman who wildly swung open her taxi's passenger door, which slammed into me, throwning my body and bike into a parked car. Besides a deep cut on my left hand's middle finger, I was fine, albeit totally enraged.
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My day ended at my boyfriend's place at 8 p.m. I had left his apartment at 7 a.m. that morning. I should have been done biking around 1 or 2 p.m., but the disastrous ride turned into a 13-hour day that simply sucked all of my energy and excitement. The last thing I wanted to do was get on my bike the next morning. So I sat on my boyfriend's couch frowning, not knowing what to do for about an hour until I finally decided that I needed a "rest day."
At that moment, I realized that taking a break isn't just about giving your body time to recover after a hard workout. It's also about keeping your passion for your sport alive. I bike because I want to, not because I have to. It's a choice and that's part of what makes it so special. I'm really grateful to have the option to hop off the saddle for a bit when I need to relax and recharge. So I sent out a few text messages to friends, apologizing for missing them at the Five Boro ride, and then I kicked up my feet and truly chilled for the next 24 hours.
To be honest, I didn't leave the couch (thank you, House of Cards) until Monday morning. And by then, my love of riding had come back to me, as I suspected it would. And I got right back out there! Well, sorta. I did two back-to-back 45-minute spin classes with the amazing Gonzalo Garcia, a spin instructor at the Manhattan Plaza Health Club and my AIDS/Lifecycle ride teammate (this is his third year participating). I had such a blast that it renewed my passion for riding and I'm looking forward to getting back out on the road...as soon as it stops raining!
For daily updates on my training, follow me on Twitter @CDGoyanes.