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Summer Training: Rest Days


In an early post, I suggested that the hardest thing an endurance athlete will do is get into shape. It takes time to develop the capacity to continue to work at an aerobic effort, and you will likely feel uncomfortable and tired. Whether you’re into biking, running, or swimming, the body goes through a fairly long period of adaptation to sustain these movements, with your heart pumping and breathing ragged. Being consistent in doing this necessary work is key to this process. Weekly consistency with repeated four to five training sessions is far more productive than six or seven one week followed by one of two the next. Regular rest days are essential to the success of this schedule. A story of two athletes I coached a few years ago will illustrate this approach.




Getting into Shape: The Value of Rest Day(s)

For many years, I coached youth athletes at the age that they were beginning to see the results of training. Trevor (not his real name) was at this point. He had just finished a fair good race season, and as he changed age categories, he became more interested in training more regularly. The first few months of his training year had gone well. His improvements within the group and his capacity to do hard training had taken a significant jump. Then in the fall, he began to have inconsistent group practices. It seemed he was not rested enough from the hard training. I suggest that he add a second rest day to his training week. This worked immediately. Over the next six months, this became a recurring pattern. When he felt that his training was harder than it should be, he would take Friday as a second rest day, and that would fix it.

The following year, Rebecca (not her real name), a highly committed female athlete, had a similar issue that started late summer. I suggested an extra rest day later in the week. The results for her, however, were less pronounced than the athlete the year before. So I suggested two consecutive rest days. This combination of a full day on Sunday and an active rest day on Monday had excellent results. A couple of times through the fall, this is what she did. Then later in the fall, I again had her try the second rest day on Friday, which was effective. By the winter, she was comfortably maintaining a six-day training program with consistently good workouts. For these two athletes, it took time to build their capacity to train six days a week - with good quality training and good health.




Rest Day Light activity (Photo credit Wix Media)


The Importance of Rest Day(s)

Taking one day per week as a rest day is a good idea. Rest Days can be totally off, giving yourself a complete break from physical activity, or your rest day can include a light activity that is a change from your regular daily training. Rest does offer an essential physical, mental and emotional break from regular endurance sports training.


A weekly rest day is a simple, routine way to build recovery time into your training; however, there will always be times when extra rest could be your best training decision, like, when you are sick but also when your sleep has been subpar, or your consistency in training has been extremely high. Like Trevor and Rebecca, being responsive to your need for rest can be extremely valuable for your continued training enjoyment and sustained athletic development. Therefore, a second rest day in the week or a shorter easy day could protect your summer training routine.


Below are two sample training weeks. First with the option of a second rest day later in the week and the second with two consecutive rest days. Additionally, of interest, these samples offer some ideas for training with choices or options for some interval sessions. I would like to hear from you about how incorporating rest days has supported your endurance development. Please share your experience and stories in the comments. All the best.




 

Sample Training Weeks


Single rest day (Mondays) with extra rest day - as needed (Friday)

Monday

Rest Day - Full or with light physical activity (play catch or kick a ball)

Tuesday

Easy Day - short or medium aerobic day

Strength #1 - Core + 2 to 3 bodyweight exercises (push-ups, squats, other)

Walk or Swim - 20 to 30min (or frisbee, catch, or fetch with the dogs)

Wednesday

Intensity #1 - Run

Warm-up - 20min easy then:

Tempo

Option 1: 15 to 25 min tempo workout

Option 2: 1X15min tempo, three min break, 1X 10min tempo

Cool-down - 10 to 12min

Notes: slightly hard to comfortably hard effort. The 1min are faster than the longer intervals; however, you still feel you are recovering well.

Thursday

Easy Day - short aerobic workout (see time ranges above)

Friday

Easy day - short or medium aerobic workout (see time ranges above)

Or Rest Day

Evening: Walk or hike - 20 to 30min

Saturday

Intensity #2

Warm-up - 20 to 30min

Intervals:

Option #1: 15 to 18 X1min/1min jog - comfortably hard effort

Option #2: 1X5min/2min jog, 4 to 6X2min/2min jog between

Cool-down - 20min

Notes: The effort is what you feel is satisfying or at the end of your workout, you will feel happy with it. You are “satisfied-tired” and not exhausted and sore.


Evening: Walk or hike - 20 to 30min

Sunday

Long aerobic workout

- run or hike 1h00min to 1h20min

- roller ski or bike 1h30min to 2h00min



Double rest day - consecutive days


Monday

Rest Day - Full or with light physical activity (play catch or kick a ball)

Tuesday

Easy Day - short or medium aerobic day

Strength #1 - Core + 2 to 3 bodyweight exercises (push-ups, squats, other)

Walk or Swim - 20 to 30min (or frisbee, catch, or fetch with the dogs)

Wednesday

Intensity #1 - Run

Warm-up - 20min easy then:

Tempo

Option 1: 15 to 25 min tempo workout

Option 2: 1X15min tempo, three min break, 1X 10min tempo

Cool-down - 10 to 12min

Notes: slightly hard to comfortably hard effort. The 1min are faster than the longer intervals; however, you still feel you are recovering well.

Thursday

Easy Day - short aerobic workout (see time ranges above)

Friday

Easy day - short or medium aerobic workout (see time ranges above)

Evening: Walk or hike - 20 to 30min

Saturday

Intensity #2

Warm-up - 20 to 30min

Intervals:

Option #1: 15 to 18 X1min/1min jog - comfortably hard effort

Option #2: 1X5min/2min jog, 4 to 6X2min/2min jog between

Cool-down - 20min

Notes: The effort is what you feel is satisfying or at the end of your workout, you will feel happy with it. You are “satisfied-tired” and not exhausted and sore.


Evening: Walk or hike - 20 to 30min

Sunday

Rest Day - full rest

Monday

Rest Day - with light physical activity (play catch or kick a ball)



 

Coaching Services:

The First Lap Coaching offers year-round coaching for cross-country skiers. We offer individual and group coaching programs through monthly programs, clinics and lessons. See our Programs and Fees page:


About the Author:

Meet Kevin Shields, an experienced coach with 28 years of experience in cross-country skiing and running. He has coached for Lappe Nordic and Nakkertok Nordic and is currently the Head Coach of the Carleton University ski team. As a University of Waterloo Cross Country and Track Alumnus, Kevin continues to train and compete in master’s athletics. He holds a BSc degree from Waterloo and a BEd from Nipissing University. He is in his final year of a Master of Coaching from the University of Alberta. Kevin’s research and practicum focus on coach education and holistic practice design.



 

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