Getting fitter is about balancing training stress with recovery. Far to many athletes believe training volume should be limited by the risk of injury and rarely consider the recovery cycles required for the body to compensate which make us stronger and fitter. The primary recovery is through sleep.
Elites and professional athletes generally have recovery nailed as training is their day job and recovery time is plentiful. Elites training for ultras, epics, 70.3 and IRONMAN often get 10 to 12 hours sleep and naps per day. Age groupers and hobbyist have day jobs generally limiting the time available for sleep. Limited recovery means keeping training volume proportionate to recovery. Cheat on recovery and the training time is wasted time.
Everyone is different but an Athlete doing 12 to 15 hours training a week at 85% aerobic intensity should be getting and average of 8+ hours per night.
Here are some rules to ensure you are getting enough recovery:
- Ban the alarm clock. If you are not waking up naturally, you are not getting sufficient quality sleep to realise the benefits of your training.
- Apply the 7 minute rule for running. If to are not feeling smooth and balanced in your running gait after your warm-up, you have not recovered, so go home and rest. 7 minutes into your warm-up running is generally a good time to check in.
- Apply the 1 hour rule for cycling. As with cycling, a good time to check-in with your cycling readiness to absorb a long ride is the 1 hour mark. Again here if you are not feeling smooth, strong and keen to continue, go home and rest.
- The Snap rule. If you find you are beginning to snap at your family or work peers for little reason, your are surely not recovering sufficiently to compensate and improve and your training is again wasted time. Reduce training for a couple of days or until you mood improves.
- Alternative stress rule. Psychological and illness stress also require recovery diminishing our ability to recover from training stress. If you are ill (including flu) or you are carrying psychological stress such as work, relationship or financial, back off on the training a resolve the root cause. This stress will hinder sleep, suppress recovery and hinder training effectiveness.
We can still train hard, putting together big multi-session days, weekends, big weeks or camps where we do intentionally overload, but the key is to take the recovery to allow the body to compensate and get stronger and fitter.