We all know there is a need for rest. In fact, it is in rest where our bodies adapt to the stimuluses that we have been exposing them to in our training.
Rest is important, as are specific recovery protocols of which I have discussed in the past and will do more so in depth covering the various topics.
The problem with traditional protocols is how rest is placed and I believe that is due to not understanding the roles hormones play in training and what the optimal session would be the following day. The focus is typically on aerobic metabolism and lactate threshold sessions which by the way are highly catabolic on the body and do call for more rest.
However what I have learnt from following the ‘old’ way early on and now for the past 5 odd years doing things differently is that we shouldn’t set in stone when your recovery days should be. No longer do I subscribe to the need for a weekly rest day or backing off training every third or fourth week as per the traditional periodisation model.
I like you am a working age group athlete who has many commitments like family, travel and a seemingly growing list of responsibilities to attend to. This is modern LIFE and there is no escaping it. And this means that life has a funny way of guaranteeing that you’ll be facing unwanted days off from time to time.
The positive kicker here is that you can remove the guilt from missing a session (if you have been consistently hitting sessions) and these days off become your rest days. No making the session up, just start again the following day. All is good.
For most of us we need to understand that even if we feel stressed (for any number of reasons) our body still sees us sitting behind a computer as rest. Yep, think about it.. as I’m sitting here typing this my aerobic system is a rest, and my muscular system is resting.
My body is resting. Sure I had a fantastic run today and at times I was truly in the moment visualising the outcomes I want to see but right now, right here my body is at rest and it gets this rest day in day out and it is a big reason why I don’t plan days off in my training schedule. They will just happen.
There are times like in the lead up to an important race or race week that there is deliberately planned rest. There are also systems and tools I use to determine when I need to rest.
I just wanted to make it clear that most of you will need to take unplanned days off or dramatically reduce training from time to time. This becomes effective recovery.
What about mental fatigue requiring rest.
We all have those stressful work days, or travel that causes us a load of mental fatigue. We feel sluggish and believe we just need to rest from training. Even though you’re ‘tired’ the physical systems have been at rest. So if you take the day off.. this is a rest day.
In time of high stress where we have different stressors coming at us from various paths I recommend adjusting your sessions to provide more of an anabolic (growth) type training session. Since high stress is catabolic on the body, the last thing you need is to add more catabolic stress from aerobic endurance training or lactate tolerance sessions. The best training here is short intense intervals or short efforts with high resistance.
The crux here is to learn to become intuitive and understand your body and its signals. I mentioned some tools and systems above that I and I recommend my athletes use.
1. The good old, go out and test drive your body to see how it responds. Big performance boosts can come from dragging yourself out of bed when your head is telling you you’re too tired to train. This is commonly a trick when you get out there and clear your head, 9 times out of 10 you end up feeling great and having an excellent session. Though sometimes you still feel tired and can just reduce the session in volume and intensity and other times, you’ll know pretty soon that you need to not train for that day.
2. Morning resting heart rate tracking. This one is very simple. Over a few weeks test your morning RHR as soon as you wake and before you start to move around. Once you have determined a base line then you can tell by checking if you need extra rest, or if you maybe coming down with something. A fluctuation of a beat or two is ok, but when it is 5+ beats, you know something is up and you should get some extra rest.
3. Using a paid software like restwise.com – this gets you to track some basic metrics, like RHR, sleep hours, quality, weight, feelings and gives you a score. It takes about a month to get some meaningful data but it can be highly useful.
Kristian “your triathlon mentor” Manietta