Updated: Feb 13, 2020
by Coach (Ret) John Murray
By and large triathletes are exceedingly ambitious creatures. They love putting in the work that shows lots of hours of training and reaping the benefits of their endeavors. However, some athletes will balk at a rest day, an active recovery day, or an easy week, thinking that they may be losing fitness by not putting in the hard work. Oddly enough, in fact, the exact opposite is true. All of these approaches to rest are designed to allow the stress of training to be absorbed. Stated another way, this is the time when adaptation to the training load occurs!
Knowing how much rest is optimal for an athlete is learned over time. Many athletes that I have personally coached are above 40 and recovery times are generally longer than those for younger athletes.
There are a variety of ways to achieve "rest" to help training to be absorbed and be set up for the next workload:
Sleep, hydration and nutrition are strategies that can speed up recovery. These are obviously essentials but their importance can sometimes be overlooked.
Active recovery is a wonderful strategy but too often we see that post-workout data shows moderate or above moderate effort levels. On this day, easy means easy.
Periodization of the training load can allow for a much lighter week after a hard week with the idea that the athlete needs a bit of a break as well as time to allow the body to adapt to the load.
Rest *is* a four-letter word, but not that kind of four-letter word! So, take a look at your training calendar, talk to your coach if you have one, and make sure you have rest/recovery strategies employed. Your performance depends on them!
(Note: If you are interested in a more quantitative and physiologic approach to measuring stress levels, recovery, and readiness to train, consider tracking heart rate variability. Learn more about that from our Team MPI partner, ithlete.)