It is no surprise that we need to ensure that we integrate enough recuperation into a training plan to optimize adaptations, prevent injury, facilitate consistency, and prepare us for race-readiness. I encourage you to think about how you can more fully integrate sport-specific recovery into your training week, your training plan, and your season-and quite possibly future seasons. Consider how you can use the following practices to train hard consistently for many, many months. For those training sessions that are specifically designed to be lower intensity, the physical stress or challenge will be low. That opens the door of opportunity for an emotional focus on skills, technique, and the more technical aspects of the sport.
More often than not, your recovery sessions will consist of light activity or, as many coaches refer to it, active recovery. Lighter-intensity, shorter sessions play an important role in recovery. The goal is not to build fitness, power, speed, or endurance; rather, it is to “move blood” around the body to enable recovery processes to occur and to maximize rejuvenation. Keep recovery sessions under 1 hour; closer to 40 minutes would be best.
These sessions maintain neuromuscular firing and prevent athletes from feeling “flat” or tied following days of complete inactivity. It’s common for athletes to go too hard during recovery sessions, trying to turn them into “quality” training sessions. Hard work has its place, and I want to make sure you are ready to give those hard efforts when they are called for. If you have accumulated too much fatigue by cheating on your light sessions, you won’t be able to give what is needed. Have confidence in your training, and enjoy your recovery sessions when you can.
The pace for recovery sessions should be conversational. It’s OK to put in a few very fast but very short bits of work to fire the neuromuscular system.
Complete Rest Days
Sometimes it is necessary to take a day away from the sport, even if only for a mental or an emotional break. Avoid filling these rest days with other duties or stressful activities, or you’ll find that your day away from training is not restorative. One drawback to a complete rest day is that athletes often feel a little flat or fatigued on the following day, which can negatively impact their performance. For this reason, you should avoid taking a complete rest day prior to a key training session. We want to maximize performance during key sessions. If you do need complete rest the day before a key session, be sure to extend the warm-up period of that key session.
If you love this post, there’s more where that came from! Check out The Well-Built Triathlete: Turning Potential Into Performance by the head coach and founder of Purplepatch Fitness, Matt Dixon. Matt is also coach to professional triathlete and Habit Project founder Sarah Piampiano.