Seven days later, and here we are again on Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Today, a national holiday - our nation’s Independence Day - seems like an incredibly appropriate day to discuss rest and recovery. I’m about to share one of the things I say most frequently with all of you: Train hard. And recover harder.
It seems so counterintuitive, I know, that rest and recovery could actually make an athlete stronger and faster. But it’s true. Be extremely wary of any coach who claims that athletes shouldn’t have rest days. EVERY athlete should have rest days. It is a critical component of each athlete’s success in reaching their goals.
Your body cannot absorb the training demands that you place on it during your workouts without rest and recovery. It cannot do it. It just can’t. And you cannot run away from this fact. This is especially true for the age-group athlete who is balancing training with a family, non-athletic career, and a social life. Professional athletes may be able to get away with more active recovery days than age-group athletes, but remember: it is their job to train and race. This is not the case for most athletes.
Honor your body and your training by taking at least one rest day per week. Not only does this give you a break to absorb the physiological demands that you’ve imposed on your body over the course of the week, but it also gives you a much-needed mental break as well. Allowing yourself to take these mental breaks allows you to prolong your enjoyment of the sport, stay engaged in your training, and not burnout to the point where you’re entering a stage of overtraining or fatigue.
If you’re an athlete who shudders at the idea of taking a day off from your athletic training (and I know that there are plenty of you out there), I offer you a list of suggested activities that might make this idea more digestible:
Spend time with your family. Catch up on laundry. Do meal prep for the week. Read a book. Watch “Criminal Minds”. Take a nap. Stretch. Get a massage. If you really want to do something sport-related, perhaps map out your training routes for the week. Going through all of your gear and making sure it’s clean and sound is another great rest day activity. (For those of you who have told me that you think I’m talking about you when I write these posts: Yes, I am directing this comment at each and every one of you AND all of your dirty bikes!!)
“But Coach Laura!! I already do a lot of these things on my rest days!!” Yes, yes you do. And that is exactly why it’s so important to take regular days off from athletic-related activities. As age group athletes, we rarely actually rest on Rest Days. These days are filled with errands, family responsibilities, social commitments, and more. Those things are incredibly important to our lives, and it’s important that we make time for a life outside of our athletic pursuits.
You put in the time and you push yourselves in your workouts. Now put in the time and push yourself to get the maximum benefit out of that hard work. This means resting, recovering, and preparing yourself to make gains in the long-term. Train hard. But recover harder. If it makes you feel better about it, don’t refer to it as a “Rest Day” or a “Recovery Day.” Refer to it as an “Adaptation Day.” After all, that’s actually what’s taking place.
As always, if this concept is a hard sell for you, I’m happy to discuss it further with you and/or answer any questions you may have. :)