Rest like a pro
by Amélie Desrochers
REST LIKE A PRO
Maxime Hénault is a training beast with a crazy entrepreneurial spirit. He built an international snowboarding training center in the Laurentians and is currently building a top performance center in Whistler
Sebastien Toutant, Laurie Blouin, Maxence Parrot, Mark McMorris, … From the hills of Northern Quebec to Olympic podiums, athletes come from all over the world to train with this guy.
Max’s approach is quite controversial. His motto is: NO DAYS OFF. Which will probably resonate with a lot of folks. Giving all you’ve got, all the time. Well, not quite. Actually, Max claims that it’s all about repetition. The more you train, the better you get. Classic.
But there are two side notes: Burning-out is a waste of time! You need to find the best pacing in order to maintain long-term consistency! Secondly, while remaining ACTIVE, you need to find ways to totally disconnect and have fun on some days. Those are Max’s rules! According to his approach, an athlete needs to train every day but also pace himself. Max insist on the importance of pacing, which means, not overdoing it. The athlete must stop the activity or lower the intensity and bring in the fun when fatigue kicks-in. Do not overtrain: the right pacing leads to decades of consistent and efficient training and that’s what makes you the best.
Psychologist Sandra explains : “Most athletes and high achievers have way too much energy for the typical cut loose and chill cure. Sitting down and doing nothing can bring anxiety and too much discomfort in some cases. Max says that for high intensity people like athlete Sébastien Toutant, a ‘day off’ means 36-whole of golf or running a 30k (!) Sandra recommend a beautiful hike, a stand-up paddle adventure alone or with some light/fun friends.
So, that means blowing off some steam, getting loose and letting it all go. If only for a minute.
In fact, whether you’re a top athlete or an entrepreneur, being supercharged and focused on your project brings high levels of dopamine, endorphins and other hormones associated with pleasure and well-being (oxytocin, serotonin) . You are literally high on life as these create psychological and physiological well being. Physical activity generates dopamine and endorphin, as do drug use. These molecules act as neurotransmitters in the brain and are associated with feelings of pleasure as well as relief from pain and stress. These neurotransmitters are released by our brain during experiences that it associates with pleasure, which is itself known to play a role in dependence processes. To read more about the phenomenon, Sandra points us towards this link. As for dopamine, it is the motivation molecule that drives you to seek rewards in achieving goals and enables you to take the effort it requires to be successful. Higher levels of dopamine also tend to support your goal-seeking behavior.‘The flow of happy and motivation hormones can make you feel strong, on top of the world and in control when they clock 70 hours a week. It’s quite reassuring for some personality types’ adds Sandra. On a side note, she points out that the so-called adrenaline addiction isn’t built on solid research :
“The body of research on “adrenaline addiction and withdrawal is not strong enough. There are no convincing evidence that it causes addiction- we know and understand very little at this point.”
But there’s a catch : your body does need to rest. It’s actually during the recuperation period that your inner systems rebuild and grow. For example, in sport, automation of motor skills (movement memory and preciseness) and enhancement of structural and metabolic functions (for example: muscle reparation and muscle building, rejuvenation and development of de blood network, lung capacity, heart efficiency) happens during rest, AKA the recuperation phase. Translating it to an intellectual workplace, it means that all brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other happens during rest and sleep. So, you need what coaches call a recuperation phase.
All that to say that you absolutely need vacations. The big V-word. Why does it bring so much restlessness in the startup community?
According to Sandra, the answer could very well be: withdrawal symptoms and fear. ‘In the taper phase, right before a big competition, athletes are forced to slow down and perform at 70% to 20% of their normal training loads, for weeks at a time. Smaller training load means less endorphins, less dopamine, less of that happy hormone free-flow. It’s common that athletes start to feel irritable, guilty, anxious, and/or vulnerable during taper. It’s natural, they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms of happy hormones, and part of their job as a professional athlete is to learn how to cope with this discomfort. They need to learn to integrate them into their routine as well as all the other high-performance feelings. They need to learn to accept these uneasy feelings and integrate along with the high and happy feelings that come with being an elite performer.” This could also apply to entrepreneurs who are in recuperation (slow-down) period and experiencing uneasy feelings.
So should you completely stop and disconnect during your vacation? Should you actually allow yourself to take some time off? We’ll go with a resounding YES. Do it for your body, treat it as a restorative cure for these tired synapses of yours. Dopamine and endorphins may be your best friends, but they can only bring you so far, you will develop a tolerance and exercise and hard work will never be enough to keep you high- you will eventually crash if the high is all you are seeking and you can’t take a break from it. Time to withdraw and refuel. But notice what your personality type is and pick your resting activities wisely.
Some entrepreneurs are flying so high for extended periods. They’re like a spinning tornado. When they finally calm down, they need to totally collapse. That may mean several days in bed eating Cheetos and watching Tiger King, again. For others, it means running only 10k instead of 30. It means goofing around with their best buddies, cleaning up their hard drive, assembling a ridiculously complex BBQ, and building a tiny house in their backyard.
Whatever your medicine is, make sure you take your mind off things for a while, even though it may feel excruciating. But as triathlon coach Charles Perrault reminds us : no need to completely disconnect. You may perform at 20 or 30 % of your capacities during this period. He promises one thing: the payoff will be worth all the discomfort. As for the no-rest Max Hénault controversial coach, he reminds us once again about the importance of pacing and the importance of disconnecting mentally by doing other fun moves, which is his case translates into easy stylish snowboard moves. His motto is : when your body is getting tired, it’s crucial to react immediately. It’s time to stop the intensity and all form of complexity! You finish things off by playing around on the slopes with your buddies. The focus completely shifts and you will be better off for it.”