I am sitting at the cottage on my holidays writing this blog so it is pretty easy to be inspired to blog about recovery and/or transition. I know many of you are probably wondering why I am sitting on my computer rather than enjoying my holidays, and to be honest, this is the first time in a long time that I have taken a week ‘off’ to literally do just about nothing at all. I am not connected to the internet at this time anyways, I am just saving this to a Word document to post later, as I feel that a week of being ‘unplugged’ can go a long way as well.
Anyways, back on topic. Regardless of your fitness level or training status, whether you are training for a specific event or just staying ‘fit’ and ‘active’, everyone can and should take time recovery or transition time. I don’t just mean taking holidays either!
I have discussed the topic of periodization in previous posts and how they work. If you missed those blogs I will summarize for you. All training or exercise scheduling should be broken down into periodized cycles. You have three main types: Microcycles run anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Mesocycles can run from a few weeks to a few months. Finally, macrocycles tend to run months to a year or more.
Periodized training modes have been used since the 1950’s, with more and more support for them starting in the 1990’s. Traditionally, amateur (Olympic) and professional athletes would be the main users of periodized training modes, but the benefits to them can also be attained by the average Joe.
Back to the topic again, as I have already discussed periodization in the past! The idea and main principles behind periodization is to keep your body and your muscles guessing or ‘confused’ so that they are constantly transitioning through stages of growth and adaptation. Problems arise, however, if you do not give your body ample time to do the recovering and transitioning.
I recommend at least 1-2 days of every week to be dedicated to resting/recovering with either sitting on your butt all day long, or least ‘actively’ recovering by doing some stretching, yoga, or mild physical activity. It is usually best to at least move somewhat as an increased blood flow promotes proper circulation for tissue repair/removal of waste. This generally does not seem to be a problem as most people take at least a day or two off every week.
When transitioning between stages or phases, or lacking stages or phases for that matter, is where some people tend to fall victim to overtraining or what is known as the “plateau effect”.
I recommend that people change up their fitness schedules every 3-6 weeks regardless, with some transition or recovery work in between these microcycles. Your body goes through its recovery and growth during that change.
If, however, you stay in a constant state of trying to change your body from day to day, week to week, month to month, your body “plateaus” and ceases to make significant changes.
I know what many of you are thinking, as I am the same way, that you need to get your fix for exercise almost on a daily basis, and that’s fine, you can! I recommend just changing things up and training different bodily systems to allow your worked areas to recover.
For example, if you are training for a specific sport and spend 4 weeks doing an intensive speed and agility training program with lots of explosive, powerful, interval-type training, when you hit your recovery or transition week, throttle back the intensity a bit and try some “LSD” (Long, Slow, Distance) cardio. Rather than running around doing interval sprints, try hopping on an exercise bike and riding at 60% of your heart rate for an hour. It not only allows your body to recover, but you are also changing things up which you may find nice to have a change of pace.
Another example would be if you are doing some heavy resistance training, pushing some heavy weights aiming for your 6-10 rep range, once you get into your recovery week, lighten up the weights and aim for 15-20 reps. You may be surprised at how sore you are the next day. Yes, you are still working your muscles, but you are training them in such a different way that will keep your body guessing and growing, while also allowing your systems that have been trained to grow and adapt properly.
During times of recovery, I recommend things like yoga, light running, stretching and just overall taking it easier than before. As I said, you should try and change up your workout goals every 3-6 weeks anyways, but I find that at most 4-5 weeks of a well-designed workout schedule will have you wanting some time to lessen the intensity anyways. I know I am sure enjoying my time on the beach right now, yet I still got a nice easy run in this morning!