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Athletes think in terms of competition—against others and themselves. But constantly pushing for a personal best or turning every pick-up game into a championship contest has negative effects. There are good reasons why you should take a break from competitive sports. 

Athletes may fear losing their fitness and regressing in endurance if they take a break. They worry that taking a break gives their competitors a chance to pull ahead. But an athlete must attend to both their physical and mental health, and body and mind both need occasional breaks. 

Muscles Need Time To Mend

Even Olympians take breaks. In fact, break days are a regular part of training routines. Physically, muscle tissue needs a break to rebuild and come back stronger. 

Heavy training creates small tears in muscle tissue, and rest gives the muscle a chance to recuperate. Without the chance to rest and rebuild, muscles are more prone to injury. 

Taking a break doesn’t mean turning into a couch potato. 

Break days and the off-season are for lighter activity. Instead of pushing for performance in the primary sport, athletes may do some cross-training or take up another sport that still involves physical activity without the stress of competition. 

Baseball players may take up golf, and runners may play tennis or spend time cycling, during which a bike ride is just a bike ride instead of a race.

The Mind Needs Time To Process and Assess

One of the reasons a good night’s sleep is so important is to give the brain a chance to “cleanse” itself by processing the information it took in during the day. 

Incessant competition gets the brain buzzing—obsessing over stats and replaying highlights or mistakes of past games rob the mind of its rest and risks burnout, and burnout risks injury. 

If your workout or your sport has become more of a chore than a source of pleasure and physical health, you’re more likely to show up on autopilot and be less aware of your surroundings. 

Fixating on how strong or fit or fast the other guy is means you’re not focusing on your own health and enjoyment.

Taking a break from competitive sports allows time for reflection—to think less about performance and more about purpose. 

Resetting and refreshing the mind with a break from sports gives an athlete the chance to pay attention to the other aspects of life, including family, hobbies, and community. 

When training starts up again, it can happen with a renewed sense of purpose and balance in life.

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