Training Principles 8 : Rest (last one)
Rest is just what it says, rest from activity. Rest is either passive or active. There are many parts to rest. I will address them in different contexts. Normal training consists of a few different cycles. The largest context is the four-year Olympic cycle. The shift in focus will change from year to year as the Olympic year approaches. As I change and my goals change, so will my rest requirements change.
Within the Olympic cycle is the yearly cycle that every competitive athlete goes through. The yearly cycle must include periods of rest. I generally finish my competitive season in the middle of March. I then take at least six to eight weeks off of training. During this time, it is important to let my body and mind heal from the intense work I did over the past ten months or so. I take a break in many ways, like catching up on the things I have put off due to my competition and training schedule. I am less active physically; this is my winter. I let the field rest so it can produce again later with more abundance, just as farmers do for their crops. During this time, I can do a number of things. One thing I like to do is to continue a little very easy biking and stretching.
I do nothing intense, everything just for fun! When I was growing up, my parents stressed that I should learn my sport the best I could, but also learn sports I could do for life. For example, I learned to play golf and tennis, and I still enjoy them today. Doing other sports will help me be a better skater because I will have a better, more rounded foundation to draw from. The important principle in active rest is to keep the intensity low. When I am ready to start the training cycle over again, my body and mind will tell me. I cannot force the issue! Starting back too soon or too fast will cause me to burn out again or get injured.
Because I am used to a lot of physical activity, stopping cold turkey will throw me off. It is still important to be active, just not as much and without any real intensity. My body needs the rest, and I must give in to it or suffer in the long run.
One very important element in my training regimen is periodic massage. Muscles need help to recover. One way to assist in recovery is massage. In order to keep up my training volume, I need recovery. The more quickly I recover, the more training volume and intensity are possible. My race results directly correspond to my training volume and intensity. I do self-massage and get great results. I use foam rollers, my hands, and a stick roller for self massage. I also hire a professional masseuse sometimes. I have a pretty good understanding of my own body and what it is going through, but using a trained massage professional brings another helpful dimension to my recovery.
Usually a massage therapist can find hot spots that I was not even aware of. After the therapist has found these spots and worked on them, my body then spends less energy on a “wound” and more energy on my general recovery. Ideally, a massage every week would be the best for me, but that is not always possible or practical.
Another tool that I use to gauge whether I am training to an optimum level is ithlete. I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, researched it, and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard and when to back off on my training. The ithlete device is an application on my smart phone that uses a receiver and my polar heart monitor to measure heart rate variability. I take a measurement immediately after waking in the morning to gauge my readiness to train hard that day. Illness and stress in my life will give me low numbers and tell me that I need rest or to train more easily that day. It reflects all of my life factors, including a very high training load. In the past, I would train right through these times, and my racing suffered as a result. This tool can give me physical feedback and validates the feelings I get when I am on track or over-trained.
When I look at my monthly training plan, I must plan my rest accordingly. Through trial and error, I have found that after working hard for three weeks I must reduce my intensity and volume and do an active rest week. I will decrease my intensity and volume for a week, so that I may avoid burn out or injury. In the weekly plan, I also include a rest day, usually Sunday. During the week, I will space my intense training out so that there are no two days in a row without a rest or recovery day. For instance, skating is like doing a hard weight workout. I will not do weights one day, then skate the next. That would be counterproductive. I will do a cardio bike recovery workout, swimming, or yoga in between skating and weights. In training, as in life, keeping everything in balance is the key to making progress.
Build the motor and learn how to apply it to your endeavor. Utilize the principles of practice, warm-up, cool-down, volume, intensity, strength, cardio, periodization, stretching, mental training, and rest.
Now I must take a hint from my dog Lilly and play.