Unplanned recovery and rest days Tips for recovery sessions
While planning in recovery weeks should be your priority, sometimes the mystery of the body takes over and you need to take an unplanned recovery day. Training fatigue is a natural consequence of higher volume and intensity, but it has to also be differentiated from over training. This can often be hard to distinguish. There is a continuum of athlete mentalities from overly conservative (pulling the plug in training whenever you feel the slightest niggle pain) to maniacal (training through fatigue, injury and illness). Both extreme mentalities lead to compromised performance.
Only you can tell when you feel it’s time to stop a workout, but you have to learn to be honest with yourself. Do you want to stop because you are worried about getting sick or injured, or is that just an excuse because the day isn’t going the way you expected and you are disappointed and frustrated. A more proactive approach is to understand that your body isn’t always going to feel 100 per cent during every workout. When you are training hard, some days are just going to be a slog. Keep perspective that each day is another step in the foundation of your training and sometimes just completing a workout is the goal. Every now and again the goals and expectations of a practice have to be adjusted to take into account what I call “mystery fatigue days,” days when you are just too fatigued to get a training effect. Sometimes you have to pull the plug and take an unplanned recovery day – maybe a gentle base run or an aerobic spin on the bike. • Run on soft surfaces, run in the woods and run easy.
Focus on form and posture instead of speed and pace. • If you find yourself increasing speed through recovery sessions, simply follow your heart rate and don’t let it climb out of Zone 2 (about 100–120 BPM for most people). • You may have to train solo. Too many people sabotage their recovery by joining a club ride, or running with people who aren’t on a plan and who are faster. • During your recovery weeks, you can still touch on speed and pace with shorter maintenance intervals. Doing 6 x 1 min fast with 1 min recovery in a 45-minute run provides the muscle memory and maintenance to carry you through to the next build phase. • Finally, if you really have trouble with recovery, reframe your percep
tion. Recovery training sessions are as important as build sessions. • Schedule massage in your recovery period and fill some of the spare time you have with stretching sessions. Concentrate on good nutrition and hydration; these are favours you do to a body that is trying hard to repair. A recovery period is also a mental refresher. Just like the off season, it gives you a much needed break in your yearly training, while the recovery weeks and days are short time outs in the microcycle. Recovery allows you to reset emotionally and take a break from thinking so hard about your goals.
Lifesport coach Lucy Smith has been helping athletes get stronger and faster for 20 years.