Just some thoughts in the off season that apply to the whole year…
The best results are NOT gained by smashing yourself into the ground constantly! It is genuinely possible to achieve the same or better results on a reduced but targeted training load with good recovery.
Why? Training (as opposed to exercise) is deliberately applying stress to the body with the aim of causing the body to adapt to that stress in a way that achieves the goal of becoming stronger, faster, enduring longer or simply to become better at absorbing oxygen and nutrients to support training.
The problem is that as with all types of stress there is a level that is productive, but go beyond that and adding further stress simply becomes counter productive. To continue to get stronger, faster etc you will, of course, need to carry on adding stress to force adaptation to continue but balancing training with injury risk, mental burnout, and potential impact on other areas of your life is the key.
Remember all stress is cumulative so if you are suffering stress at work, home or from family situations (worrying about ill relatives etc) then it may be beneficial to your long term goals to back off self imposed stress until things are a bit calmer.
Injury and illness: easily said and we all know it really, but harder to do, is to recognise the signs of illness and potential injury (niggles, sore spots, persistent minor muscle strains etc) and then to stop! Injuries don’t necessarily mean you have to stop training at all, triathletes can often continue the other disciplines, runners can deep water run or cross train.
Recovery: is, in my opinion, as important as the actual training you are doing and the only way that you can get best value out of your training and ensure you are achieving the adaptations you require.
Problems with overtraining or under recovering include: Increased risk of injury, constantly tired/sore, not being able to complete harder sessions as well as required, loss of motivation. At it’s extreme chronic overtraining syndrome, although rare, could mean years out of training or racing.
I entirely recognise that particularly long distance athletes can stress over not doing enough training and are prone to trying to shoehorn more training into already limited time. We need to embrace the need for recovery and adaptation from the start and recognise its importance. That’s why our DLC athletes all have rest days, “easier” weeks every 3 or 4 weeks, and sessions that are scheduled appropriately.
Sleep, plenty of good quality sleep is the best way to recover by a very long way. Human Growth Hormone is released in deep sleep and most of your adaptations will take place in that time. Do not restrict sleep hours as a way of finding more time to train, there are better ways of making the most of training time.
Rest, embrace days off and don’t sneak in more sessions. If you really can’t stand doing nothing..
Active recovery, sessions aimed at keeping the body turning over but without adding undue extra stress. Walk, spend time with the family, gentle runs rides or swimming.
Massage, a good sports masseur will identify where tight spots are developing and work on those to loosen them up. It’s not about how much pressure they can apply but where it is applied to to stop problems developing.
Foam rolling, could be the subject of a whole blog but suffice to say it’s not about rolling over the same place time and again, better to pin the tight spot and then move the muscle underneath.
Nutrition: well timed appropriate nutrition, fuel sufficiently to support the training you are planning. For most sessions of an hour or less there is no need to fuel during but refuel with around 20gm of protein within a couple of hours of a session. It appears that the “30 min window” is something of a myth based on extrapolation of a study of bodybuilders, it does no harm to eat within that 30 mins, just don’t think you’ve missed the opportunity if you can’t.