Written by USAT Certified Coach Mat Steinmetz.

For some reason, it seems hard to convince athletes that they’re tired and would benefit from some periods of freshening. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that the length an athlete can go without taking a break has become sort of a bragging right.

By structuring “planned” recovery into your schedule you can be in control. When athletes get caught up in the “train till there’s pain” approach and ignore common warning signals of excessive fatigue, you will eventually get your rest, but it won’t be on your own terms. Your rest will take the form of “forced” recovery.

You need to listen to your body, if you’re tired, you’re tired. If you are a coached athlete and the plan calls for a long run, but you are feeling trashed before you even start, then leave it…once you leave it, it is gone. Don’t try and squeeze it in on another day. Your basic week is designed for optimal training stimulus and recovery. By trying to squeeze in the missed session, you’ll begin to stack workouts, causing you to become more tired (which is the reason you skipped it in the first place). You will also jeopardize other key sessions later in the week.

Here is how it has worked for me this year. Every week, every month, sets me up for the next phase of my plan. This requires patience and the ability to look at the big picture and avoid the temptations to rush fitness. The training in Boulder has been exactly like this. Once we’ve completed a solid block of training, we will take a brief period of scheduled rest between blocks, letting our bodys heal so they can handle the demands of the next training cycle. We then follow that same pattern as the blocks become longer and more demanding.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Many athletes train week after week and never give themselves a chance to freshen up so they can build upon their existing fitness level. The only thing that is being built is fatigue. I’ve tried this approach before and you can achieve results with this method. However, one of the major differences that I am noticing this year, is that I’m carrying around less residual fatigue. I stress the body, but then let is rest before I do it again. It is a much safer and consistent way to increase the output of your key sessions. These key sessions are the foundation of your race specific phase leading into your goal ‘A’ race.

The take home message is this: As an endurance athlete, consistently hitting your basic week yields superior results. Within that week, your goal is to have the highest output during your key sessions. To do this, you can’t always be wrecked.

The two cheapest and most beneficial supplements an athlete can use to increase his/her recovery are–Sleep & Water!


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