Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Learning How to Rest

Why is it we triathletes have such a hard time taking time off? I think I enjoy the feeling of being sore and tired. I get so restless when I take a few days off. However, our bodies become stronger and heal when we rest. Then, we can come back and work even harder during training.

As mid-season approaches, I have noticed several symptoms of "overreaching" which is the phase that occurs before "overtraining." It's a good sign that I need some good rest. Not only that, but with some important races coming up (clears throat) e.g. San Diego International--this weekend (Ack!), it's also important to taper before a big race. I have linked some good articles on overtraining, overreaching, rest and recovery, and tapering since I feel I am trying to deal with this stuff right now. Now if I could just take my own advice...

Overloading & Overreaching--Basically, overloading is what you normally do--stress your body out and then let it recover and come back stronger. Overreaching is when you do too much at once and then don't allow your body to recover adequately. Over longer periods, this becomes overtraining.
"Overloading is the normal training process. It simply means increasing the stress on your body to
cause adaptation to the stress. It is typical to feel short term fatigue with overload. Overreaching
occurs when you continue to train at abnormally high loads, or increase them for about 2 weeks."
--from Transition Times

Overtraining--You probably know it's happening and are in denial. You are pushing your body past its limits. It's screaming at you to rest, and you ignore it. Injury, burnout, and other bad things are usually a result.
"Overtraining can best be defined as the state where the athlete has been repeatedly stressed by
training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery. Overtraining is
characterized by a collection of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms and is also known as
"burnout" or "staleness."
--from Triathlete Magazine--

Common Symptoms of Overtraining:
abnormal heart rate, especially when working out
exhaustion/fatigue that won't go away
persistant muscle soreness
change in appetite
lack of motivation
decreased performance

Usually, you know when you have overtrained. It's a matter of listening to your body. The hard part is that sometimes we overestimate how hard we can train. However, other life stresses can lower our tolerance to the amount of training we can handle. For instance, long hours at the office, kids, family pressures, etc., all these things can add extra stress on our bodies. Be realistic. If you're body is telling you to rest, you probably need to rest, even if you think you haven't been working that hard.

Preventing Overtraining:

  • Keep a training log.
  • look back and make sure you're taking enough days off
  • schedule in days off, and R&R weeks
  • Adequate sleep.
  • 8-10 hours a night--workouts make our bodies require more sleep
  • sometimes naps too
  • Adequate Nutrition
  • don't skimp on calories!
  • Rest Days
  • I like to take 1 day completely off per week.
  • This also gives me time to get caught up on other life requirements.
  • R&R Weeks
  • Every 4th week in training, schedule a reduction in training volume by about 50% or so.
  • Take more days off than you usually would.
  • Use these weeks to do something entire different.
  • Go for a hike with the family, play beach volleyball, or even just sit and watch the B-ball game!
  • You'll feel much better when you return to training the following week.
  • Taper
  • Before a big race, reduce training and take the few days before off.
  • Do a few short, intense workouts to jog your muscle memory and relieve anxiety.
  • Your body will reward you on race day!
  • Recovery Workouts
  • Don't go all out on every work out.
  • Include weekly easy rides, runs, and swims.
  • Leave the heart rate monitor and computers at home and go out and have fun!
  • Race Schedule
  • Are you racing too much?
  • Are you taking enough time off between races?
  • Plan on taking at least a week off after a big race.
  • Periodization
  • Alter your training schedule so you don't go all out all the time. (see below)
  • Off Season
  • At the end of the season, take a month off to have fun and reflect back on your awesome season.
  • Don't go all out all the time!

More Good Terms/Definitions and Links Related to Overtraining:

R&R--"Rest & Recovery"--scheduling a week every 4th week of training to cut back on the workouts, rest up, and allow your body to recover. When you return to training, you should feel fresh and ready to go.

Periodization Training--Scheduling training so that you do different phases every 6 weeks or so. This prevents overtraining because you're not doing the same workouts at the same volume from week to week. Some periods, you will work on your endurance (base training) and train long hours at low intensity, while other periods you work on your strength and train shorter hours at higher intensity (build period). R&R weeks should be interpersed throughout. The periodization revolves around your race season and should include a reduction in training at the end of the season.

"Previously, the training was to maintain the same constant stresses year round. Could you imagine doing the same workouts week in and week out? The new method was to create some periods of training that were easier then the others to promote rest and to let the body grow stronger. ..Periodization involves many variables including frequency (how ‘often’ you train), duration (how ‘long’ you train for one session), volume (how ‘much’ you train in a given week or cycle) and intensity (how ‘hard’ you train at any given time). From these variables a recipe is created that will hopefully help you reach your peak for the key race(s) you are targeting." --from Tri Fuel--

Taper--What you do before an important race to "peak" so you have a stellar performance. Your body is fully recovered on race day so you can reap the rewards of all your training.

"What is a “taper?” Tapering means reducing training volume prior to a goal race in order to facilitate total and complete recovery. You should incorporate a taper a week or two prior to A race(s). The length of the taper will depend on the length of your event; the longer the event the longer the taper length. From a training stand point there is nothing you can do the week of a goal race to physiologically increase performance but there are many opportunities to reduce it. " from--Tri Fuel (

Peaking--Before your biggest race of the year, taper so that you "peak" on race day. The goal is to have your best performance when it counts.


Cliff said...

I find sleeping 8-9 hr a day helps a lot. Not only for the body but mentally I am more alert and get through the day easier.

The trick is to not do stuff and go to bed early :)

jessie_tri_mn said...

Good round up.

YES! do listen to your advice here. Do practice what you're preaching.

A lot of this seems so common sensical, but it's so hard to recognize common sense when we're in the heat of training and currently feeling really good.

Oh, and good luck on Saturday :)

Ken Schulz said...

Great write-up. Funny you should post this right after my last week of training right into a race. My body was shot but I knew this going into the race. Now I've had a few days rest and I'm starting active recovery for a 2 week cycle. Oh, and I'm constantly in denial of overtraining... triathletes curse!

JeffM said...

You brought s lot of great info together. Good luck Satuday!

qcmier said...

A lot of great stuff here. And you call yourself an amateur? Looks like you've got a good handle on things. =)

Jack said...

Very good information!