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Making sure you’re getting enough rest and recovery while still fitting in your workouts—and life—can be tricky. Training for triathlon is a balancing act, so consider these key aspects when you’re planning your rest and recovery days:
Track your resting heart rate (RHR)
Consistently take your resting HR upon waking up, preferably while still lying in bed, and keep a log. Track RHR daily to establish a baseline. From there you will be able to associate changes in RHR with fatigue levels and fitness gains. For some, an abnormal increase in RHR is a sign of overreaching.
Structure your schedule
The key is to create a schedule that accounts for your constraints—career, family/social commitments, family time—and overlay these against personal goals (be honest with yourself!). Break your training into smaller cycles. Examples include two days of quality followed by one active recovery day, or three to four days of quality sessions followed up with one to two days of active recovery (which could include a full rest day).
Take recovery/pre-hab seriously
Sleep is a very important factor for recovery; aim for at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night to help your body recover and recharge for the next day. Active recovery is a great tool to help your body bounce back between workouts, and it could take the form of an easy swim or easy bike ride, or it can be literally just a walk in the park. If you need a full day off, then take it—without feeling guilty. Finally, a good post-workout stretch, foam roller session, yoga and/or compression attire can help increase your rate of recovery.
Strength train the smart way
Strength training should complement your triathlon training and help you build a strong and robust body. If you’re going to lift heavy then be sure to schedule that into your training program at the right time—ideally on a day when you’re already doing a harder workout so that you can maximize your recovery on an easy day. Sessions should be 30 to 45 minutes, two to three times per week. The primary focus should be to strengthen your weak areas (hamstrings, gluteus, hips and core) and improve your flexibility, mobility, and stability.
Consistency is key
No matter how you decide to structure your training, remember that it is better to train consistently week after week and month after month instead of pushing too hard and missing days, weeks or months due to overtraining or injury.
Andrew Shanks is a coach for Dynamo Multisport based in Atlanta. He has been coaching since 2008 and holds a master’s degree in exercise science.