Friday, 7 March 2014

Rest and Recovery

Sometimes the right thing to do in your training is not to train.

That may sound strange if you're not used to following a training plan.  Perhaps someone has given you that good old advice of "just ride as much as possible every day".  This is actually very bad advice.

It's really important to listen to your body and rest when it needs it.  Recovery is one of the most vital aspects of training and over-training can lead to pretty serious problems and really poor performance.

Being an amateur, I don't have a coach.  I could pay for one, but I actually quite enjoy coming up with my own training plans.  I like the planning and structure, the science, the analysing of data to benchmark and monitor my progress.  I rely a lot on books and online resources, and have been producing my own training plans for 3 years now.  Last year, though, was the first time I included official "R&R" weeks: Rest and Recovery.  This was thanks to reading Joe Friel's work and listening to his sound advice.

Today got me thinking about these R&R weeks, hence the blog post.  I usually have one of these weeks every 4 weeks in my plan.  I follow the proven structure of periodisation in my training plan, working through specifically targeted periods each typically lasting 4 weeks.  So, it works out perfectly to have 3 hard weeks of training in each period, followed by a rest and recovery week (with reduced volume and intensity).  This gives your body the chance to recover from the intense training, and restore itself ready for your next training efforts or race.

To quote the legendary Joe Friel, "As strange as it may seem, there are athletes who believe that fatigue is the reason for training.  They have come to view this natural side effect of hard work as a marker of improved fitness.  Shoter-term increases in fatigue are normal as the volume or intensity of training rises, but it must be unloaded frequently to maintain fitness growth.  Failure to do so is a training mistake."

One other thing I've learned about a training plan though is that you need to be able to change it if something in your life or your racing changes.  The date was changed for one of my "A priority" races this year and so I had to re-jig my training plan to peak a bit earlier in the season than originally planned.  I did this by shortening my base training period (because my base fitness was good) and introduced my build training (more intense power/anaerobic workouts) earlier.  But in doing so, I had to skip an R&R week.  I have now learned from this mistake! (which is also an important part of training - mistakes will happen, so learn from them and move on!)

Instead of going 3 weeks then an R&R week, I've now done almost 5 weeks and I'm due an R&R week next week.  Those two extra weeks have taken their toll and my legs have just been feeling a bit heavy and drained this week.  Thankfully I've not seen any other signs of more serious fatigue (for example, my waking heart rate, which I take every morning, has stayed at the same level), but I know my body well now and I know it needs a rest.  I still did my training Monday to Thursday this week, but eased off on one session last night and have taken today as a full rest day. 

And I mean a full rest day!

I even took the day off work.  Work has been busy and so I could do with a day off anyway, but I still want to do some intense training this weekend before my full R&R week next week.  So, no cycling, no weight training, and as little walking as possible today!  It will mostly be spent sitting on my rear end!  I've had a lie in and relaxed on the sofa at home.  I'm then going to go see a couple of films at the cinema and just generally chillax!  Although I'll probably need to take my fluffy slippers and tartan pyjamas off before going to the cinema!  Otherwise, I might be taking the chillaxing a bit too far . . .

This may just sound like I'm just having a lazy day, something most people might do on a Sunday.  But this is actually part of my training plan.  I've listened to what my body needs and I'm sure I'll feel the benefit this weekend as I'll be able to put more effort into the intense training I've got planned, and then have a full R&R week next week.  It will rest my mind and body in advance of that, and remember that resting the mind is just as important for training and racing.  It might seem like a waste of a day's annual leave from work, but giving my mind a break from work also helps me focus on my training too.  When it comes to racing, you definitely don't want to have the stresses of work or anything else playing on your mind on the start line; especially in mountain biking when you need full concentration for technical courses!

Next week's R&R week is not just about rest.  It's about the second "R" too: active recovery.  It's also a good time to check your progress with some testing.  I'll have one full day off again, do my usual weight training and Pilates sessions, three active recovery Zone 1 rides, some skills and sprints practice, and the Saturday will be my testing day.  I'll either do a Lactate Threshold Heart Rate test or use one of my local trails to check if my personal best time has improved (a really good way of checking your progress and one of the benefits of apps like Runkeeper and Strava these days!).

So, if someone is telling you just to ride as much as you can, just politely nod and walk away.  Go back to your structured training plan and ensure you have at least one day off the bike each week and a rest and recovery week every few weeks.  And remember to listen to your body - coach or no coach, only you can do that!

1 comment:

  1. I like that you are planing your own training and working on that. Rest is recovery is a important term of our life and we should take rest for keeping ourselves healthy.

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