Aren’t you the recovery coach? I don’t see many rest days on our plan... surely you are going to crush me?
This is a very common reaction from many new athletes joining Purple Patch. But whether you're new or a longtime part of the community, it is worth diving into the answer to provide a broader perspective on our training approach.
Let’s break down the answer into three parts:
- Avoid making chicken casserole: to break down recovery, we must first appreciate a quality training program. High-value training blocks should not see every training session hold the same value, despite all playing an important role. Instead of throwing a bunch of sessions together into a week of training with similar "flavor" throughout, and adding up total hours or mileage, it is superior to build around two to three days of distinct, important key sessions designed to drive performance. These are the kings or queens in terms of priority for the week. We then wrap them with supporting sessions that help us recover from those big sessions, prepare for them, or create general conditioning and technical development.
- Embrace the elements of support. If we appreciate the purpose of the key sessions, we can then embrace our supporting sessions, and the critical roles they have. A big one is ‘recovery’: physiologically, the body recovers best when it includes some low level training sessions that force blood (carrying oxygen) to circulate through the muscles. When we go for a 30 to 60 min easy jog, ride for 45 to 120 minutes, swim 1500 to 3000 meters (or any other lighter session), the rise in heart rate and circulation assists in removing negative byproducts that have accumulated from prior sessions. These supporting sessions improve adaptation from your key sessions, and oxygenate the tissue for recovery.
- Rest for the mind, recover with activity. A rest day can be an important part of the training puzzle. Many athletes love, or need, to have a day each week to turn their back on the sport and completely rest. There is nothing wrong with this approach, as the mind is a key part of performance, as it involves integrating sport into life. Just realize that it isn’t physiologically critical: complete rest doesn't necessarily equal optimal physiological recovery. If daily sport feels good, and fits well, then go ahead and embrace no rest days.
With this bigger picture in mind, choose wisely: a true rest day is a great thing if it soothes the mind, and should be taken guilt free. Just ensure it falls on a day that replaces one of the lower stress supporting workout days. If you don’t feel like you need it for logistics or mind, then keep on truckin'! Just don’t forget the mission: it is recovery, not fitness, on those days.