How Much Recovery Is Enough In the Rest Period?
All Wenzel cycling and triathlon programs include annual extended recovery periods, usually about a month in length, though cross racers might break the month into two chunks, one before training for cross and one before training for road or MTB. In general, an endurance athlete who has raced a full season with one or two bike races every weekend or a couple of short course triathlons per month, or even just one or two long-course events, will do well to take about five weeks off training, maybe a couple of weeks more or less. That doesn’t mean that the athlete can’t be active, but that he or she should not be focused on training. Some will hang up the bike or running shoes entirely. Others will ride or run for fun. During the rest period, you should not be working with the goal of improving fitness. Take time to recover both physically and emotionally from the past season. Do enjoy some hiking, mountain biking, swimming, cross country skiing, skating… anything that is active and fun for you. If you like video games, or reading novels, do that. The important things are to rediscover your life outside of your sport, and to not get fat.
I noted that the rest break might be longer or shorter so here’s how you decide: Take at least three weeks really easy because that’s how long it takes for a normally damaged muscle to repair, even if you feel better sooner. Then you are looking for two things: physical and emotional recovery. So each day, you ask yourself how you feel. How are your legs? Are you hungry for training? Are you better than the week before? When you are no longer getting better in terms of leg feel or enthusiasm for training, make the break last one more week. Then you are ready to train again. Before you start training, you should have about a week where your legs feel completely recovered and you are desperate to get on your bike or out on the running trail. Store up that enthusiasm. Remember what it feels like. You’ll need it down the road when you are doing back to back many-hour days.
Many athletes in their enthusiasm to do better next year than they did this year want to get down to training as soon as racing ends. That’s an error. Athlete’s who don’t take any break often end up burning out mentally before the next season, and even if they don’t burn out, they don’t end up stronger than they would have had they taken a break. So, follow your coach’s directions. Take your break when it’s scheduled. Take it easy, and get ready to train harder the following month. (And if you’ve not yet scheduled your next rest period, contact your coach.)