This week, I’m especially thankful that it’s Coach Tip Tuesday!! Every week, I feel like I’m having a cup of tea with all of you, my friends. It’s one of my favorite things each week. :)
It’s the middle of November. The racing season is essentially over for athletes in the Northern Hemisphere. This makes it a VERY good time to talk about Maintenance Phase and the concept of learning how to recover.
The more I coach, the more I realize that my job isn’t to push the athletes who I’m working for to work hard. Almost every single athlete who I have ever worked for knew how to work hard before they hired me. Whether they were/are conscious of it or not, athletes actually seek out coaching or training guidance because they do not know how to recover.
I’ll say it again: i’s the middle of November. With very few exceptions, almost all athletes who reside in the Northern Hemisphere are in (or should be in) some form of Maintenance or Off-Season Training Phase right now. This means a reduction in both volume and intensity for at least a 4-6 week time period.
I’ve talked about this with all of you before: recovery is where the gains are made. While this concept certainly does apply to daily and weekly training, it also has a broader scope in the context of an overall season or annual training plan. It’s not possible to keep pushing all of the time. Eventually, the body will break down and sustain some sort of “failure” - whether that be in the form of an injury or a setback in training. All athletes need to take the time for a Maintenance or Off-Season Training Phase where training is reduced racing is non-existent or minimal.
It has so many benefits. Mentally, everyone needs a break from the “grind” of following a strict training plan working towards a specific goal. Physically, the body needs to recover from a season or year of hard work. A properly-structured training plan during this time period will enable an athlete to stay active and to maintain many of the gains made during the previous training cycles.
It’s important to know that there will be some deconditioning - loss of fitness - that will occur during this time period, and this is usually accompanied by a bit of weight gain. That’s totally normal, and is actually a necessary part of successful training (even professional athletes put on 5-6 pounds during this time period, which is a lot for them). If you are truly in this (maintaining an active lifestyle) for the long haul, then going through these annual cycles is an important part in sustaining that. Think about grizzly bears: they spend their year loading up on calories and body weight so they can go hibernate. During that hibernation, they lose it. It’s part of their natural cycle. The following year, they get back out there and build back up. As athletes, we’re similar to this in a lot of ways. We need to take some time where recovery is the name of the game, and it will enable us to come back ready to build back up even stronger the following year.
As I mentioned, in my experience, athletes do not know how to manage recovery well on their own. This extends further; in my experience, athletes left to their own devices will not properly manage a Maintenance Phase and then will struggle in the Base, Build, Peak, and Competition Phases the following year as a result. A good coach will help an athlete learn to manage all of this and then maximize their potential as a result.
So this week, I want you all to ask yourselves this very serious question: Do YOU know how to recover??