As an athlete, I truly LOVE my recovery weeks because I take FULL advantage of them. However, as a coach, I cringe at recovery weeks because I know my athletes DO NOT take full advantage. Unfortunately, this is a common theme in the triathlon world. When triathletes have “time” on their hands, they try to fill it up by:
- Cleaning the house
- Doing the lawn
- Washing baseboards
- Start a garden…yes, I have heard this.
Let’s get into the real geekiness of planning for a triathlon. First, of course, most coaches should use “periodization,” so here is your history lesson for the day.
Historically, periodization became popular at the time of the ancient Olympics. Athletes have a very simple logical of training…they train to compete for pre-Olympics and Olympics and then a little bit of R-n-R.
Using this kind of periodized training, athletes plan their whole year around specific events. An athlete’s year can be divided into a base phase, build phase, and peak phase.
Leonid Matveyev, a Russian professor, started analyzing how the Soviet athletes trained for the 1952 Olympic Games. His work, which scientifically validated periodization, showed that an annual training plan (ATP) should be divided into training phases, with each phase having a specific plan (increase endurance, increase strength, etc.) within that ATP. Each week/phase was then broken down into smaller training phases called “macro-cycle” (2-6 week duration) and “micro-cycle” (one week of training).
My athletes have “macro-cycles” of 3-4 weeks. These weeks range from 9-12 hours of training each week. If you are a Master athlete, I will have 2 weeks on/1 week recovery week. Us, old folks, need that extra rest. Under 40, 3 weeks on/1 week off.
What do I tell my athletes? I give them the “Rulon Rules to Recovery Week!”
- Active Recovery…still moving that body but try to do nothing more than an hour of workouts.
- Testing your speed and skill. I may have them do a 1000 meter time trial test or a 5k run or a 20 min bike to find a new FTP or Critical Power.
- Limit the food intake that you will be eating. Not training as hard and don’t need to excess food.
- Get a massage…take a couple of extra naps throughout the week…time to Rest Up. You have a couple of hard weeks ahead!
- Catch up on life: laundry, meet with friends, talk to your spouse (J/K), and hire someone to clean the house, and to do the lawn!
Recovery Week is CRUCIAL in my world as an athlete and as a coach. Most athletes are Type A personalities, so they tend to go harder, longer for a longer period of time. Some of my athletes hesitate to take a “down week,” but trust me; they will not lose fitness. This recovery week is only helping them. Athletes feel that if you go hard all the time, then you will make improvements.
Still not convinced about recovery day weeks?
Look at your own training now. Have you had any time off in your training schedule? Do you schedule yourself rest days? Rest or Active Recovery Weeks? If you don’t, why NOT! This is where you recover. Could you take advantage of it?
Recovery will Improve Your Fitness!