Photo by meddygarnet
Welcome to the early season—the time to commit to your races and start to fill in your schedule, planning the work you’ll do to prepare. You wouldn’t think it, but now is also the time to plan your time off. In fact, before you even start to pencil in your key workouts, you must consider how you’ll recover from training.
We can even go so far as to say that you should design your training based not on how many hours per week you have to train, but on how much time you can devote to absorbing the work you do, by resting and sleeping. You can dream all you want about the supersets and training camps you’ll wedge in, but they will do no good—and will likely do harm—if you are unable to recover between your efforts.
You’ll need to include recovery in every unit of time measurement. That is, there should be recovery on a yearly level, a monthly level, a weekly level, a daily level, and even an hourly level. Here’s an overview of how to approach these units of recovery and integrate them into your training.
Each year, you should have a few weeks of unstructured training. If your race schedule includes ultra distance events, these should be preceded by at least a week of absolutely no training at all. If you peak for two races over the course of the year, be sure to build in at least a week or two after the first race to allow your body and mind to recover. If you plan well, you could have these coincide with a family vacation, giving you time to reconnect with your most important support crew. This boosts your spirits for the next block, and the extended break lets your body repair the tissues that were damaged in your peak event and throughout training. Your immune system will also be bolstered by this annual break. (Read more on how important these yearly break are, here.)
Each month, you’ll need to include a block of lighter training. While workouts can maintain a little intensity, the amount of it should be substantially less, and your long endurance workouts should be shorter than usual. This is important downtime that gives your physiology—and often, your psyche—a chance to adapt to the work of the preceding cycle. Depending on your age and training, this lighter block could last from four to eight days and should come every third to fourth week.
Over the course of the week, you’ll need to plan days you’re going to take easier. Ideally, these will be truly easy days, when the demands of your work and home life are also light. On these easy days, resist the tendency to go too hard. You need this time to repair tissue damage and let your body combat inflammation so that you can get more out of the next hard workout.
There should be some time for rest and relaxation each day. This means time when you’re off your feet, when demands on your attention are low, and when you can relax away from the need to do anything and simply be. Restorative yoga is a great choice here, but so is sharing a meal with your partner or even zoning out with the television.
Even on an hourly level, you should schedule time for recovery. During workouts, this means building in recoveries between your harder intervals. These breaks help you eke out more work when you need to. Also, during the course of the workday, be sure you are taking a few minutes each hour to let go of your focus, take a short walk, or stretch.
Keep this cycle of work and rest undulating across each of these units of time, and you’ll be primed for peak performance this year.