I have a teammate, who shall remain anonymous, that purposely chooses to live with non-cycling friends. He told me about how after 6 hour training rides the last thing he wants to do is come home and talk some more about cycling. He's a young lad, but as I heard him tell me this I thought about how well he understood himself. El muchacho understood what he needed to do in order to remain balanced.
I've made references on this blog and even written an entire post about Knowing Thyself and how important that is. If you are an athlete and giving 100% when you are practicing or competing, you need to have some time to unwind and relax. There has to be not only a physical break to your training but also a mental cessation to the training as well. Many athlete will often say that their body was not what caused them to hit the wall during the season but their mind.
All athletes must know, and respect, the fact that their minds will grow tired when placed under training stress just like their bodies. You have recovery days/time in your physical training and need the same for your mind. The problem is that the mind is not as blatant in telling you that it's tired like your body. We need to train ourselves to know when our minds are getting tired. Better yet, we need to plan these recovery times for our mind so that we do not get to the point of mental exhaustion.
I can't necessarily tell you what your recovery time looks like, but I can tell you what it shouldn't look like. Your mental recovery time should not be related to your particular sport. As hard as it may seem you need to totally unplug. For the example at the beginning of the blog, el muchacho played it safe by not even having anyone around that knows about cycling. Many of us are disciplined enough to know that blowing off a recovery day following a tough workout will set us back rather than move us forward. It's the same principle here with the mind. Not allowing yourself to cut loose and have some fun that doesn't involve your sport will do more harm than good.
To stick with cycling, because it's the sport I know best, I can give some examples from the pro ranks to illustrate some ways to unplug. Lots of these guys and gals will fool around on social media and take pictures or videos of them goofing off with their teammates and such. They are around other cyclists, but what they are doing is not related to training or competing. It's being silly and disconnecting for a bit. I've seen this trend increase quite a bit over the last year or so and I believe it's because many professional cyclists have realized it's a long season and this is one effective way to make it to the end of the season fresh and not burnt out.
Once again I'll come back to knowing thyself. Whatever it is that works for you, go for it! Try a couple of different things and see what helps keep you fresh mentally. A stale mind will only make the body less effective. Feel free to leave some comments on what helps you disconnect for anyone else reading that might be looking for some good ideas. Thanks for reading.