Coach Tip Tuesday: Extra time does not automatically mean extra training time
Updated: Mar 24
Photo Description: And hourglass with red sand moving between the two glass bulbs.
Top o' the morning to you all!! It’s not only St. Patrick’s Day; it’s Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Normally, I’d aim to write some witty post that ties into the day’s holiday. However, this week, I think that I need to write about something that is more timely and relevant:
Many of you out there might be encountering this situation right now: you now have different, more frequent, or longer windows for training. Many, many changes have happened in the last week due to COVID-19 that have folks either working from home, working less hours, or not working at all. Many might be tempted to add in more training now that they have this “found time.” However, despite the fact that our world is changing on a daily basis right now, the foundational principles of training have NOT changed.
What does this mean?? Well, it means that even though you might have extra time now, your body is not necessarily (read: almost certainly) not prepared to handle extra training load immediately.
In the endurance sports world, we call the process by which we prescribe training “periodization.” There are many different types of periodization, but the main premise behind is that we are always carefully and deliberately controlling the amount of load (i.e. volume or time) and intensity being imposed on an athlete. We manipulate these variables in many ways over the course of a longer training cycle to ultimately get the athlete peaked and ready to race at the precise right time.
A lot of factors go into the decisions regarding training and periodization. More often than not, in the work I do with the athletes who I work with, the first factor I need to consider is their available training time. Yes, even before we select a goal, we need to evaluate their available training time to see if the goal fits within what they can safely and reasonably train for.
And so, when any circumstance pops up when athletes have extra training time (i.e. vacation, a snow day, working from home due to a national emergency), I end up having the conversation about how just because they WANT to train loads extra doesn’t mean that it is WISE to train loads extra. In the “normal” routine, this usually comes up when athletes go on vacation (particularly when athletes from cold climates go on vacation somewhere warm during the winter). Right now, it’s happening since many people aren’t working their normal hours or even their normal amount of hours. While some are working extra (fist bump to all of you out there!!), many are finding themselves in this position: “What am I going to do now that I am home all day??”
The advice I give is this: stay the course. It can feel VERY challenging to do this, especially if stress levels are running high and the instinct is to just do what “feels best.” While I almost always encourage athletes to do what they feel is best, this is one of the times when I am encouraging that while simultaneously encouraging athletes to consider what they are feeling best about. For instance, if someone wants to go for a run to burn off stress and does so repeatedly without considering what else is adjacent to it in the training week, this stress reliever could turn into a stress nightmare if that overload causes an injury.
So, my advice is this: Keep training pretty much the same as you have been in terms of load and intensity. If you are unable to do things (swim, go to the gym, etc.), layering a ton of extra volume on in other disciplines is not necessarily the wisest choice right now. (i.e. If you can’t swim, it’s probably not a great idea to swap those couple of hours you would have spent swimming with a couple of hours of running if you haven’t built up a strong running base.)
Instead of high volume swaps, aim for high-quality swaps. For instance, you could aim to include a bit of extra strength training in your weekly training schedule. (This could include some exercises that specifically enhance the muscles you use while swimming if you are unable to swim right now.) Spending more time on recovery (stretching, getting quality sleep, timing your nutrition well) is an EXCELLENT thing to dedicate extra time to. Going for walks can also be a great addition; it allows you to take in the great outdoors with minimal risk of injury or overload. (In fact, I’ve found walking to be one of the most beneficial things an athlete can due to build up their durability for running and cycling.)
So, in the end, my advice this week is pretty similar to the advice I dole out in “normal” weeks, but it does have that specific focus: Be wise. Don’t be impulsive with your workouts. Prioritize your health and wellness in a mindful, deliberate way. Take time out of each day to move, and try to find value in ALL kinds of movement. Extra time does not automatically equal extra training time, but it can equal a stronger, happier self if that time is used well. So, my friends: use it well. :)