Thursday, September 7, 2017

Keep Easy Days Easy

Erika Cote attacks "The Wall" at
the Mt. Washington Hillclimb.
Photo by Joe Viger Photography.
"Once you have commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there."  ~Haile Gebrselassie
In Training Peaks vernacular, form (aka. training stress balance) is the sum of the following equation;

Yesterday's Fitness - Yesterday's Fatigue

Both fitness and fatigue are cumulative and are represented as weighted averages over the most recent and relative training cycle.  Athletes are generally in a position to perform at their peak capacity when their form is at or above zero.  The optimal form for an endurance athlete is individualized however and a qualified endurance coach with access to the above data can determine exactly the combination of training stress and recovery an athlete needs.  

Hard Work
Most endurance athletes are intrinsically and exceptionally motivated individuals who understand that hard work leads to performance improvement.  It's not difficult to get an endurance athlete to push themselves.  But the above equation suggests that there is a balance between the training stress that leads to fitness and the training stress that results in fatigue.  

Types of Recovery
Training programs with protracted and excessively high training volumes lead to undesirable and performance limiting levels of fatigue.  In best case scenarios, the athlete does not perform up to the level of their preparation.  In worst case scenarios, the athlete becomes sick or injured.  Understanding the benefit and practical application of recovery becomes instrumental to performance success.

Recovery is administered in one of two ways; absolute and relative.  Absolute recovery is a day off from training.  Generally speaking, most endurance athletes benefit from at least one absolute recovery day per microcycle (ie. week).  Relative recovery is either a cross training unit (something other than the primary activity) or a lower volume primary training unit (ie. "active recovery").  Properly prescribed "active recovery" training units utilize the athlete's primary sport (ie. running for runners or cycling for cyclists) and are at a sufficiently low intensity to provide the athlete valuable neuromuscular stimulation without resulting in unduly high levels of fatigue.

The Common Mistake
The most common mistake endurance athletes make is performing their "active recovery" training units at too high of an intensity.  This failure to execute the training plan doesn't lead to fitness gains, it leads to fatigue.  And excessive fatigue tips the training stress balance (ie. form) toward negative numbers and outcomes.  

Discipline yourself to take easy days easy.  In the end, they will ultimately lead to greater performance gains when it matters the most.

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