My coach has me down for a recovery week next week, but I’m feeling really strong right now and don’t want to back off my workouts and kill the momentum I’ve built. Can I just keep training hard until the next recovery week? Would love to hear your opinion. Thanks.
Your problem isn’t a bad one to have. On one hand, the fact that you’re feeling strong is a sign that you’re fit and recovering well from the training you’ve been doing up to this point. When you’re in a good groove with your workouts and feeling stronger every week, the hardest thing to do is back off on the volume and intensity, even if just for a few days. But on the flipside, while you might feel like you’re killing your momentum by scaling back your long run, dropping the miles and easing off the gas pedal, you’re really just setting yourself up to pick up even more steam during the next 3-4-week block of training, and the block after that, and so forth. Also, you’re lessening the likelihood of injury or illness by giving your energy systems the opportunity to rebound from the most recent heavy training load.
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When you’re bumping up mileage and increasing/varying the intensity of your workouts week after week, you’re providing yourself with new or additional stimuli for future improvement. One of the byproducts of this increased training load, however, is that you accumulate fatigue at a faster rate. If you ignore the fact that this is happening and don’t adjust your recovery strategy accordingly, performance eventually suffers and the likelihood of illness or injury increases. In my experience, most runners tend to get stale, sick or hurt after they’ve strung together too many “big” weeks in a row—usually more than three—without reducing their overall training volume by 20-30 percent and varying the intensity of their workouts for at least 5-7 days.
Remember, every workout and every week of training should have a specific purpose. While week after week of long runs and tough workouts will give you the confidence that your training is on track, the recovery weeks that follow will allow you to get more out of those big weeks moving forward. Stop yourself from thinking of these weeks as purposeless or merely restful. Rather, place an equal amount of emphasis on “nailing” those recovery weeks when they’re scheduled. You’ll come back refreshed and lessen the likelihood of being forced to take an unplanned down week because of overtraining, injury or illness.
As retired U.S. Olympic middle-distance runner Marty Liquori famously said: “Just remember this: No one ever won the olive wreath with an impressive training diary.”
Ask Mario appears monthly in Competitor magazine and weekly on Competitor.com. Have a question for Mario? Submit it here.