A successful training program is one that gets you to the start line feeling fit and fresh. Most endurance athletes may not struggle with getting out the door and doing some hard work, but in fact allowing themselves to rest and recover enough. We must break up our training in cycles and be as intentional (if not more) about our rest than our hard quality sessions. Below is part 1 (of a 5 part series) regarding smart training cycles:
We break our bodies down every time that we run or exercise – even the easy days. We need daily recovery which usually comes in the form of sleep and NOT being active. This is a tiny 24-hour cycle of exercise followed by non-activity. For those that double (run / exercise twice per day), it’s a 12-hour cycle.
So, what can we do during the day to recover from our session? Think REM … not just REM-cycle sleep, but Rest, Eat, Move
REST – Get enough sleep! Much easier said than done but there are things that happen in our bodies (and minds) that can no happen anyplace else than those sleep-cycles. Give your body a break! My personal “sweet-spot” for sleep is 5.5-7 hours during normal training (closer to 8 hours required after 20-30mi long runs) but it’s different for everybody … GO TO BED!!!
EAT – Eat enough and eat often! The days of three giant meals are over. You’re an endurance athlete, you’re going to be hungry A LOT … you burn the calories, so you need to put them back in. No, this doesn’t give you permission to pig-out whenever you want, remember an appropriate racing weight is an asset when it comes time to perform. But you should be eating often … think of your conventional three meals as nothing more than three giant snacks with 2-3 other normal snacks throughout the day. Don’t feel like you’re starving or gorging, but merely topping off every couple of hours.
MOVE – Keep the blood moving. Blood flow is recovery which is why we’ll discuss how running can be treated as rest / recovery in a future post (different cycle focus). When not running, your daily cycle should include some regular movement … not to work your muscular system, skeletal system, or cardiovascular system (like your workout does) but to deliver oxygen via your blood stream. Stagnant muscles are tight muscles (you know that feeling when you’ve sat in your office chair for 4-8 hours?) and prolonged sitting postures are just not natural. Get up, walk around, stand while working, set alarms to walk around the block … it’s good for your brain as well!