The Importance of Recovery Days in your Training Program
As a SpartanSGX Coach, I like to assign homework to my athletes so that they can make progress toward their race goal rather than blindly beating their body up in hopes of discovering the right formula on their own. Such assignments include sport specific and cross training activities as will as active recovery days. Sure, you may read fitness magazines and have a good idea about developing an appropriate training program, but in my 10 years as a sports performance coach there is one aspect of training that comes to mind that most athletes not only overlook but even try to avoid – REST.
As weekend warriors, we all look up to great athletes who inspire us to push more with our own training so that we do not give in to the voices in our head telling us to quit. We watch videos and read articles about professional athletes who all echo one thing- winning is hard work! So while your goal might not be to necessarily be to “win”, we take those words and develop this drive that motivates us to not give up. That is exactly what Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan Race, means when he says “Spartan UP”. Sucking it up and pushing past limitations is essential not only on the field (or in training), but in life. We should all be constantly cultivating an attitude toward overcoming any obstacle that comes your way. However, we must also realize how dangerous the ego can be when we choose to not listen to our coach or even our friends who may voice concern that we could be overtraining.
A big part of my job is to motivate my athletes. I can always be heard cheering them on with positive words to override the doubt they may be experiencing in the moment. But, my ultimate goal as a coach is to help others improve their performance which sometimes means telling them to slow down with their training regimen. While this concept may seem counterintuitive, it is with the athletes best interest in mind.
However, it seems most athletes do not understand the concept of actual recovery and how essential it is to improvement.
When we work out, we are causing micro tears in our muscles and other soft tissues. It is by way of rest and allowing the body time to heal that we actually gain the benefits of those workouts.This “no days off” mentality is a very ego driven way of thinking that will eventually catch up to you by running your body and/or mind to the point of exhaustion whether it be with illness or injury. Only when that point is reached do most athletes understand that they were in fact overtraining. Unfortunately, when something like that occurs it is often the last effect of the overtraining syndrome. The effects of overtraining build up long in your system way before we ever realize by altering neuromuscular pathways, creating hormonal imbalances, and decreasing our ability to properly recover.
So while I do want you to SPARTAN UP and not let certain mental blocks get in the way of your training, I would simply like to recommend we all pay just as much attention to our recovery regimen as we do to our training. This means scheduling days off as well as partaking in active recovery where we focus on stretching, foam rolling, and light corrective exercises. To be tactical about your training program, I recommend keeping a journal that tracks your workout type, intensity, time, and volume as well noting how you feel mentally. Being sluggish or unenthused about your workout could be early signs of overtraining syndrome. Other ways to help prevent overtraining and promote adequate recovery include getting sufficient sleep and keeping a nutrient rich diet full of antioxidants to help combat the oxidative stress created from exercise.