Instead of following this vicious cycle, learn to pace yourself and find a balance between working hard and getting proper rest to help your body and mind function optimally.
While hard training is important; any advanced athlete will tell you that rest and recovery is as important, if not more important, to your success as an athlete. If you’re getting the proper rest you’ll allow your body the time it takes to rebuild, regenerate, and recuperate to get ready for the next hard training session. Below are my recommendations for restful recovery.
Incorporate complete rest into your training regime on a regular basis. Total downtime provides a physical and mental break. I like to take one full rest day off (no exercise) every week to prevent overtraining, burnout, and maintain motivation. Spend this time relaxing or enjoy the day off with family or friends.
Rest doesn’t always mean taking time off completely; it can mean not going hard all of the time. Utilize active recovery techniques such as a low-intensity run, ride, easy swim, walk, hike, or yoga class to restore blood flow to the muscles and help them recover faster. This type of workout can be done each week to promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness before and after hard training days. Training hard when your muscles are tired and fatigued can lead to injury and is usually a waste of time. Well-rested muscles respond better to training and are more effective for helping you quickly reach your goals.
Running becomes a treat when you don’t do it everyday. Incorporating other exercises into your training can give your muscles a break and prevent overuse injury from the same repetitive movement (most commonly seen with runners). I suggest cycling, swimming, and/or yoga to runners. These exercises increase flexibility and develop the upper body strength that’s often lacking in runners. As a late blooming triathlete, this cross training has been a welcome change for me and adds the variety needed to keep my body balanced and my mind refreshed.
Take an Off-season Break
Being a runner and triathlete I train all year long, but I find it helpful to take a short off-season break each year. It’s usually after all the triathlon races wrap up for the year in Utah and the racing season slows down. When taking a break from hard training, you’ll still want to stay active to avoid losing fitness gains. Follow the tips below to rest while staying fit.
4 ways to maintain fitness during a training break
- Stay active to maintain conditioning during the off-
season. You don’t need to push really hard, but get some
aerobic exercise at least every other day.
- Enjoy exercise for what it is—no watch or numbers—
just enjoy a run or ride. Give yourself time to enjoy
other activities you haven’t done for awhile like rock
climbing, hiking, golf, tennis, or whatever you enjoy most.
- Depending on the person the “off-season” can last for
several weeks or maybe a few months. I recommend 2–4
weeks for most.
- Continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet as the holidays
approach. The ”off-season” is a time to mentally and
physically rejuvenate. Well rested muscles and a
refreshed mind will respond better to training.
Get a Massage
Years ago I thought massage was an extra, but I’ve now learned how much it helps me recover. Having someone professionally trained to work out the knots, adhesions, and release tension from the muscles has helped me heal and function on a daily basis. I believe massage also helps prevent injuries and aids recovery by restoring blood flow to the muscles. It helps me tolerate the heavy workload that is required to be a top-performing endurance athlete. Ice massage, cryotherapy, and using a foam roller are also beneficial home tools for recovery.
Remember to utilize complete rest, active recovery workouts, cross training, a scheduled off-season, and massage to help your muscles heal so you can reach your potential and achieve your race goals for the season ahead.