Triathletes are certainly a different breed. We love to swim, bike, run and could happily fill day after day pushing our bodies to the limit to see what we can achieve. With the rise of social training apps such as Strava (we love Strava, but we have also caught ourselves on it checking out the top times on segments seeing if maybe we could take it out on our morning ride), it has become increasingly difficult for us to think it is ok to have an easy week. But here is the problem, without a recovery week or periodization week as we like to call it, there is no way we will ever get that Strava segment.
Believe it or not, sometimes doing nothing, is actually doing more for you then training ever could. Rest can be the key to seeing fitness and performance improvements in your racing. Every training block should be structured around 4-6 weeks, 3 weeks hard, 1 week easy or 5 weeks hard, 1 week easy depending on your fitness levels. The recovery week or periodisation week as we like to call it, is key to any long block of training as it lets your body absorb the hard efforts put in over the previous three weeks while giving you a mental break from the demands of training. It also allows you to prepare physically and mentally for the next 3 weeks. Skipping a recovery week can prove harmful to an athlete as it can result in injury or illness.
Periodisation week does not mean a nothing week of training, it just means decreasing your training volume while still staying active at a lower intensity. In this week there should be 1-2 scheduled rest days where you do nothing to do with Triathlon. Your other training sessions throughout the week should be easy and stress free. This means organising some mates for a cruisey coastal spin followed by a stop at the coffee shop for a brew instead of a high intensity hill session. You can probably also skip the track and head out for a short run with the dog or a brisk walk with a non-running friend. And maybe the best part you can also cut your swim sessions down with only a few short bursts of intensity (think, a handful of 25 or 50M efforts). Throughout the week you should have ample of extra time, you can use this time to get a few extra hours sleep, unwind mentally by doing other activities you enjoy such as spending extra time you don’t normally have with loved ones, reading a book, binging on Netflix or heading to the beach. You can also try out other forms of recovery you may not usually have time for such as yoga, grabbing a massage or becoming best friends with your foam roller. It is also critical you focus on hydration and fuelling correctly to maximise your recovery, remember you are probably still being as active as a normal person and trying to recover at the same time, so nutrition and hydration should not be sidelined in your periodisation week.
At the end of the day the periodisation week should be a non-negotiable in everyone’s training program if they are seeking to improve and adapt to new training loads. However, some triathletes really struggle with the concept of an easier week on their training program, this is why we like to use the term ‘periodisation week’ instead of ‘recovery week’. They fear they will lose all the fitness they have gained and will come back basically having to start again, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. If you fall into this category we urge you to try factoring in an easy week and see how you come back the following week feeling rejuvenated with a new mindset and hunger to improve. If you already factor in an easy week kudos to you, and remember to keep active, fuelled and use your extra spare time wisely doing things you normally don’t have time for to make to most of your week.