A fitness article titled “Rest”? That can’t be right. Rocky Balboa didn’t rest. Vince Lombardi famously said, “There is no substitute for work,” not “rest.” What gives?
Okay, I’m not saying don’t work and would never disagree with Vince Lombardi, however, rest and recovery are critical elements of any fitness plan. In order to achieve results the body must adapt to the training it is subjected to. Adaptation only comes after the body is subjected to a physical stress and then allowed to properly recover following that stress. In other words, stress followed by recovery equals adaptation which leads to results (be it improved performance, increased fitness, weight loss, etc.). It is important to note recovery does not have to be a day completely off from training. Active recovery is a useful tool to maintain flexibility and improve fitness. Active recovery, however, should be done at a level way below your more intense workouts.
Rest and recovery should be built into every training plan, both at the micro (weekly) and macro (quarter, season, and/or year) level.
Space your intense effort days out with easy or off days in between. At most, I recommend two intense days during a one week period. Intense days include increased effort, time or both. Using running as an example, two intense days could include a track workout to focus on speed and a distance workout to focus on endurance. These two workouts should be spaced out to allow for proper recovery between workouts. Recovery days could include a day completely off from all exercise, a day of cross training (bike, swim, zumba, etc.), and/or a day of easy running. This recovery will not only allow for the adaption discussed above but also allow for maximal effort on the intense days.
As you look at your plan for the season or year, add easy weeks to allow for proper rest and recovery. For the triathletes I train, I typically set up the macro schedule to be three weeks of building intensity followed by one week of much reduced training intensity – both in quantity and quality. This is a good way to ensure you are taking easy weeks, but be ready to switch things around if you are feeling tired or life simply gets in the way.
In extreme cases, lack of sufficient rest and recovery can lead to overtraining which is a very serious issue and can take months to recover. Some symptoms of overtraining include decreased performance with prolonged recovery, decreased muscular strength, increased heart rate, and poor sleep with chronic fatigue. To prevent overtraining, ensure you follow the rest and recovery guidelines above, get plenty of sleep, and eat a healthy diet. If you feel you are suffering from overtraining, see your doctor, trainer or coach for help and advice.
Nathan Borchers is the Owner and Head Coach of Why Not Now? Coaching; coaching endurance athletes in running, triathlon and cycling. Have you have ever wanted to get into Triathlon, Cycling or Distance Running? Do you just want to improve your performance? If so – Why Not Now? I can help (distance coaching available).