IMPORTANCE OF TRIATHLON TRAINING REST
The importance of triathlon training rest is crucial to optimum performance and should never be left out of the equation.
Insufficient rest can lead to triathlon over-training and possibly injury and far too often triathletes go into a major race tired and over-trained.
OVER-TRAINING AND THE TRIATHLETE
I recall when I made my decision to run my very first marathon back in the late 70’s and I had no running experience. I didn’t have a clue about dieting or how to set up a training program. Resting was something that never really crossed my mind.
All I knew was that I’d better run lots because a marathon was a long way. So, I ran pretty well everyday. One year I ran every day except for Xmas day. Talk about over-training.
I was afraid to take days off, because I felt I would lose the conditioning I had gained. However, I would have days when I ran less.
My theory back then was that there was no point in even putting my running shoes on for a run of less than five miles. So that was the shortest my runs would ever be…..about 45-50 minutes.
My longest runs were often up to 4 or 5 hours.
Unfortunately, I carried this line of reasoning over into my first decade of being a triathlete and proper triathlon training rest was never a consideration in the early days.
It finally dawned on me that I had to take it easier and triathlon training rest finally became an integral part of my Ironman triathlon training.
TRAINING PLAN MISTAKES
So I did what most triathletes do now. I tried to set up a training program that would allow for rest days. For instance, I would take every Monday and Thursday off and train the other five days. I did that for years.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this method is flawed as well. When you think about it, how much sense does it make to have preset rest days?
In actuality, triathlon training rest days should be flexible and would best be scheduled as a guideline.
What if you have a long bike ride scheduled for Sunday and you feel like crap? Well you probably do what used to do. You do the workout anyway because it’s scheduled.
What if you wake up on a scheduled rest day and feel great? Well, you probably do what I did and take the day off because its scheduled.
It finally dawned on me that scheduling rest days and religiously sticking to the plan is a flawed concept. I discovered the importance of triathlon training rest days when my body was telling me I needed it, and not necessarily the day it was scheduled.
REST WHEN YOUR BODY NEEDS IT
This is how it worked.
I still wrote out a basic training schedule to make sure I balanced the three events. I even left blank days. But if I got to that blank day where no training was scheduled and felt great, I would just do an unplanned workout.
Sometimes I would train 12 or more days in a row. Sometimes I would train just 2 days and feel tired, so I would take a day off. I just went with how I felt and took my triathlon training rest when I thought it was needed.
If I went out for a run and went half a mile and knew it was going to be a struggle, I turned around and walked home and took a rest day. In prior years, I would have forced myself to do the run because it was scheduled.
When you think about it, how much good would you really get from that run? Probably not much, and if ever you are going to get injured, it will most likely be one of those times that you should have just turned around and called it a day.
If I felt like I needed it, I would sometimes take an entire weekend off and do nothing associated with Triathlon training.
That first year of trying this, I probably took more rest days than I ever had in previous years. It seemed like I was always training when I felt really good.
And I was.
REST MORE AND COMPETE BETTER
On race day I didn’t know what to expect. It just blew me away. I set personal bests in all three events and it was my fastest Ironman ever.
Even more importantly, I felt really good through-out all three events and had one of my best recoveries from a race ever.
I began to realize that for most of my early Ironman races I was tired when the starting gun sounded because of not understanding the importance of triathlon training rest.
It was almost as if I had left my best bike and run times somewhere out on the training course because they seemed to be AWOL on race day.
WEIGHT TRAINING ROUTINES
If you are adding weight training into your triathlon training, then rest days should also be incorporated into those workouts. You should always have a rebuilding day in between weight workouts in order for muscles to recover and re-build.
Weight training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and taking weekends off from weight-training is a sound basic plan that works well for most people.
Planning a training swim for after your weight workout is a great way to soothe tired muscles and speed recovery.
Keep in mind that these weight workouts do not have to be long, complicated, or extensive as you have to consider that you are also swimming, biking, and running and making the most of your available training time is important.
Many triathletes have realized great benefits by just doing the squat exercise and nothing else. Three or four sets of squats(10-12 repeats at about 75% of your maximum) a few times a week will not take up much of your time and you can be in and out of the weight room in 15-20 minutes.
The squat exercise will often result in amazing improvements in Ironman bike splits as well as more seamless transitions into the marathon.
As with all of your triathlon training, rest days are imperative to get the most of whatever weight-training routine you decide to adopt.
Ultimately you want to be at your very best on race day, and a training year without properly timed rest can prevent you from giving your best effort. Train and rest smart and you will be rewarded when the gun goes off the day of the big race.