Get fitter by being kind to yourself

Push yourself, but don't forget to allow for recovery.
Push yourself, but don't forget to allow for recovery. 

Because you are runner and therefore human, you cannot maintain a relentless training regimen without some recovery time; especially if you’ve trained for a few events already this year, such as half marathons or 10kms or City2Surf distance.

Think about it: it’s September and if you’ve been training consistently since February, you could be forgiven for feeling really fatigued. You could be wondering why target times that were achievable five months ago are out of reach today. Sometimes we put unreasonable expectations on our bodies. We think if we’re not training we are being lazy. But by not allowing time for repair to happen, we are compromising the body’s ability to absorb the hard work and translate it into improved strength and cardiovascular gains.

“I constantly see masters athletes underestimate the importance of rest and recovery in their weekly and/ or monthly training cycles,” says Sydney sprint and strength coach Rod Clarke (www.runfasthq.com).

“All too often rapid improvement is achieved after a long break from the track or early in the training year. This is often proceeded by little or no improvement and in many cases athletes start to break down and or become ill.”

Clarke says not to be afraid to have a down or rest week, or drop the occasional run from a training set.

“For example instead of 2x5x100,  do 1×5 and 1x3x100m,” he says. “Alternatively throw in a tempo session, drop your weight sessions for the week or change a track session for a pool session.

“You don’t need to walk off the track smashed after every session.”

This can be a challenge for people who are convinced that if they don’t train super hard every time they lace up, it’s not worth doing it.

Clarke also says recovery should begin the moment you finish a training session.

“Make sure you are warming down properly. Have a light jog and a stretch. If you have any little niggles, get ice on them as quickly as possible after training. Get a minimum of eight hours of good sleep per night. Get the fluid back into your system after training and rehydrate properly throughout the day. Be aware of neural fatigue, which occurs after power gym sessions and explosive work on the track. It takes up to 72 hours to recover from these sessions.”

One reliable physiological indicator of overtraining is an elevated heart rate.

“An increase in your resting heart rate of 5-10 beats in the morning may indicate overtraining,” says Clarke. “Take your resting heart rate in the morning before coffee or activity for a period of one week to obtain a baseline. If your heart rate increases over a few days it may be time to back off.

“To me, knowing when to back off an athlete’s program is the art part of coaching, not the science. When I set the guys a four-to-six program and I see they are starting to struggle I will just back the load off. It may only be for one session and they are back on target.

“I am also a big believer in deloading and down weeks.

Sports nutritionist, runner and triathlete Matt Fitzgerald describes training as a game of stress and adaptation.

“Workouts stress your body by challenging the limits of its speed and endurance," he says. "If you apply the right amounts of stress with the right frequency, your body will change in response to this stress — adapting in ways that make it better able to handle the same stress when repeated.”

Fitzgerald suggests four ways to avoid overtraining:

Train progressively: “As a general rule, you should increase your weekly training volume by no more than 10 per cent each week.”

Use the hard-easy rule: “The next workout you do after any challenging workout should be relatively easy, so it doesn’t interfere with your recovery from the stress imposed.”

Plan recovery weeks: “Interrupt your training progression periodically with brief periods of reduced training to give your body a chance to fully absorb the hard work and recover.”

Listen to your body: “There will come times when you feel unexpectedly run down. When this happens, heed the warning your body is giving you and take a day off, or at least replace your next hard workout with an easier one.”

So...be kind to yourself and get fitter in the process. Sounds like a neat arrangement to me.

Are you an overtraining victim? What are your recovery tips?

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