Yes, you read that right. Recovery days can, and will, make you a faster triathlete. That is of course if they’re done properly. As we get inside of 10 weeks or so until Ironman Mont Tremblant our training loads should be nearing their peak. We’re talking at least 60+ mile bike rides and 13+ mile long runs at this point.
In order to maximize our fitness when we’re not intensely exercising we first need to understand what those workouts are doing for us. They’re sending a signal to the body to adapt to the stress we’re applying. Your 5x10:00 at FTP bike workouts are putting your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and your mind under a load of stress and fatigue. The recovery aspect allows your body to absorb those fitness gains, which, in turn makes you faster and stronger. Without recovery you don’t maximize your fitness potential, simple as that.
Recovery looks different to everyone as it should since we’re all unique. For you it may be three weeks of hard training followed by one week of lighter volume and lower intensity. For others it might be four hard weeks followed by one week of recovery. Training for Ironman Mont Tremblant has taken a different path than my 2017 training log to Ironman Lake Placid… as it should.
I’ve made recovery a priority so there are frequent, and specifically planned, complete days off almost once per week. I think it’s helped me become a fitter, more focused athlete. In addition to my one day of rest every 7 to 10 days, I’ve focused on these five things to help enhance my recovery and maximize my fitness:
My total rest days, and even active recovery days (light volume, low intensity) start a few hours later than my typical training days when I’m up and at ‘em by 4:30 AM. I take advantage of the shorter workouts by prioritizing my sleep. I’ll grab an extra hour or two of sleep. This allows my body to soak in that fatigue and gets me fresh for the next day’s workout. Any opportunity you get to sleep a bit longer it’s essential you take advantage of it.
Address your weaknesses
Things like mobility and foam rolling are oftentimes overlooked or not even thought of at all because, well, it’s one more thing we don’t have time for. However, consistently spending even 10 minutes foam rolling your IT bands, or working in ankle mobility could have a profound affect on your run ability.
On my rest and recovery days I even spend time doing light drills in the pool, on the bike, or running. This helps keep the blood flowing (I’ll explain more on this in a minute) and allows me to focus my attention on form and technique which isn’t always possible during an intense workout.
Reduce caloric intake
I’ve explained in the past how to properly calculate caloric intake on active days, rest days, and race days. Because your energy output will be less on rest and recovery days it’s critical that our food choices reflect that.
If one day per week, or one week per month, we over indulge during periods of lighter volume we could be setting ourselves up for unwanted weight gain and reduced performance. Unfortunately many athletes tend to make their recovery or rest days align with their nutritional “cheat” days and go all in on the processed foods which are high in calorie and low in nutrients. Those types of foods slow recovery and zap some of that potential fitness.
Get up, get outside, and move
”But you just said total rest days are good!” I did, yes. By total rest days I mean no structured or scheduled workout. It’s not an invitation to bury your ass in the couch for 24 hours. It’s not fair, I know.
On a day without any structured workouts you could go for a long walk, throw the ball around with your kids, jog around the dog park with your fur ball. The options are limitless, just get up and move. This will help your body flush out fatigue and keep you from feeling flat to start your next workout the following day.
If you prefer active recovery days rather than full-on rest days, then a light hike might be in order. A casual spin on the bike or short, low intensity run at a comfortable pace are great options too. Luckily we spend much of our time outdoors this time of year training. That’s allowing our bodies to take in ample Vitamin D, which is very beneficial.
What you do on your rest and recovery days is critical to you reaching your fitness goals. Your recovery days are just as much of an opportunity to gain fitness as the days you hammer through bike intervals or #tracktuesday!
Plan the week ahead
A day without a long, arduous workout is the perfect time to reflect on what you did well the prior week and where you might try to improve. Spending time pinpointing certain stressors is great as well. Is work overwhelming? Is your spouse giving you a hard time for the long training hours? What can you identify as a potential pain point that’s impeding progress or at the very least slowing it down. A rest or recovery day is a fantastic time for self-reflection.
If you’re interested in learning more about taking full advantage of your recovery fill out the application below.
After you hit submit I’ll follow up usually within a matter of minutes but could be up to an hour or so. I’ll email you to say hello and to schedule a phone call!