Most serious athletes need a recovery week after about two to five weeks of hard training. Again, there’s no way of precisely predicting what you will need as far as timing. The best way of determining this is trial and error. But you need to be cautious with trying to see how much fatigue you can accumulate before taking a break. I once knew a pro triathlete who I came to coach who decided to skip recovery weeks and press on regardless of how tired he was. He was never the same again. Overtraining took a big bite out of his performance and he never fully recovered from it. Two years later he retired, prematurely, from the sport.
Exercising places a tremendous strain on the body. When you exercise, you tear muscle fibers, which the body must repair in order to make you stronger. In order to do this, your body must have time to recover. Because exercise programs vary in duration and intensity, some athletes need more time to recover than others. The average exerciser is fine taking one to three rest days off a week and doesn’t require an entire week’s recovery. However, athletes doing intense weightlifting or long endurance races should include recovery weeks in their schedule.
When athletes do not allow proper recovery time, they risk overtraining. Symptoms of over training include chronic fatigue, a foul mood or depression, an elevated resting heart rate, trouble sleeping and decreased athletic performance. The body is also more vulnerable to infections and injury at this time. Symptoms can be severe, so it’s important to consult your doctor during the early signs to decrease the length of recovery time.
Stick to the plan – Regardless of how good you feel or if you missed a few workouts the weeks prior, DO NOT skip your recovery week. The only time we allow athletes to change a recovery week is if the week prior was basically an early recovery week due to life circumstances.
Cut your volume by 30-40% – The rule of thumb we use is that a recovery week should be about 30-40% of the duration of the largest training week in your last block. Again, doing too much or too little can derail your recovery week. Too much slows or negates your recovery. Too little can result in detraining, or at the very least, hurting the quality of the workouts once you get back to training normally. DON’T DO NOTHING!
The Importance of Recovery in Triathlon Training
Truth or blasphemy, you decide.
No training plan is complete without a good recovery plan. The ideas below are meant to help MIT Club
triathletes direct their own recovery and start them on the path to making their most of their training
plan. Just as training plans can be personally engineered, recovery is also personal. Use the below ideas
1) Take a rest day every week, and make it as important as your workouts
2) Don’t always go the same speed/intensity. Build, push, build, and then rest.
3) Pamper yourself with sleep, mental recovery, physical recover, and nutrition
4) Understand yourself physically, nutritionally, and mentally. Push your limits, but don’t sabotage
your body, brain, or health.
My most recent apropos quote: “Don’t recover to train, train to recover.”
As for recovery from the metabolic stress of hard training, a paper published in 1990 by Joseph Houmard and coworkers at Ball State University indicates that a period of reduced volume can help your muscles recover from difficult training.
In their experiment, the researchers monitored levels of various hormones and proteins in the blood of ten well-trained distance runners during four weeks of normal training and a three-week “down period” where the runners dropped their volume by 70%.
Houmard et al. found that levels of creatine kinase, a protein that indicates muscle damage and inflammation, decreased by almost 60% during the down period.
What’s the bottom line?
Down weeks could be useful when you’re trying to recover from a training session, race, or series of workouts that take a heavy toll on your leg muscles, especially in those intense and monotonous weeks of marathon training.
This would include long, fast runs, hill workouts, and long races like a ten-miler or a half marathon. After taking a beating, your leg muscles will be able to heal more effectively during a down week than they would otherwise.