Do you ever take more than one day off of your training program? Do you, like many coaches and athletes, scoff at the importance of taking longer rest periods leading up to big events? To many athletes, the term ‘rest’ is perceived as negative and even stressful. Time they consider ‘unproductive’, or time they think should be used to train even more to further improve their performance. Let me shift your paradigm on ‘rest’. Consider time away from training not as ‘rest’ but rather as ‘de-training. ‘De-training is a critical component of your training cycle. It helps improve your overall performance by creating body balance, reducing your risk of injuries, and preparing your body for even greater training intensities to follow.
‘De-training’ or the absence of training, and training are two sides of the same coin. To build an effective training program, you must therefore factor in both elements for optimal results on race day.
Planning the appropriate amount of de-training can be challenging, and varies with each situation. I will say however, that taking only one day off per week on a regular basis as your only de-training period is probably not enough as you get into longer training periods. The common perception is that conditioning and fitness will be lost by taking more than one day off in a row. Belief and trust that longer rest periods do improve results comes from going through the process. Expect kicking and screaming your first time through a longer de-training period, but the pay-offs will be significant.
De-training can last anywhere from three to 13 days or longer, where the athlete should not take off from training more than two days in a row during these periods . Longer de-training cycles (five to 13 days) occur between macro-cycles of 12 to 18 weeks, while shorter de-training periods (two to five days) occur between micro-training cycles of 3 to 5 weeks. Some athletes embrace their time away to rest, while others go off and do extra workouts. Understanding that rest or de-training is an essential part of successful long-term athletic progression is critical for proper development. Many athletes have difficulty with this concept. They’ve been conditioned to view ‘rest’ as an enemy to successful training for big races. The thought of even a one-day rest becomes a major source of stress.
Periodization which is a process of varying training intensity and volume in macro and micro-cycles is a common practice that has been used for many years, by coaches at all levels. While most training programs emphasize controlling training volume and intensity, effective training programs must also include periodized de-training periods during the macro and micro cycles leading up to major events. Following race day, longer rest periods are recommended and used often. Scheduling longer de-training periods leading up to big events often creates conflict with both coaches and athletes as neither wants to miss training time.
While taking one-day off a week on a continuous basis is a common practice, it doesn’t allow the body to completely recover when training at higher levels. Although scheduling longer de-training periods can initially be stressful for both coaches and athletes, the pay-offs are clear. Longer de-training periods help improve your end results by allowing the body to be consistently stretched. These longer rest periods also help create body balance and reduce your risk of training-related injuries due to over training. And finally, by allowing your body to completely recover, you prepare yourself to train effectively at even greater intensities following your period of de-training.
Bottom-line: shift your ‘rest’ paradigm. Training smart, being consistent, and factoring in sufficient de-training periods into your program will set you up for optimal results on race day.