Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Importance of Rest

Remember when you were at school and you had PE (gym class)? Remember when it was Summer and you did running?
Remember how you had to learn to run slower for the 800m (1/2 mile) and 1500m (mile) runs?
Remember Cross-country?
You had to pace yourself to last the distance.
That's how training (and life in general) is.
Pace yourself to get the best results.
I've had a heavy cold for a week or so. Colds often "settle" on my chest.
So I've been taking it easy.
That's partly why you haven't seen me posting much on Strava recently.
How easy is easy?
Well, I still walk about 25 miles (40km) a week, and cycle about 20 (32km).
(I cycle to work, and walk a lot when I am there)
So still more than most of the population!
Haven't had a day off sick in 6 years, and "pacing" myself helps a lot.

So why don't I post all those little bits on Strava to "prove" I've done them?
Well, I used to post all the cycling, but do folks really want me clogging up their feeds with four or more sort rides a day?
So I tend to just post the "extras".

But pacing isn't just about taking it easy when you are sick.
Think about how training works.
You do a hard run/ride, take a rest day (or cross-train some other muscles), then next time you are fitter, and can go further and faster.

What happens if there is no rest day?
You get slower.
This continues until you either get so slow you take a rest day, or you injure yourself and your take a rest day.
Some folks do heavy days then light days, some folks cross-train, some folks do "2 days on, one day off".
But we all need those rest days.

But, but, but...
January 2014, I trained for 31 days straight - where were the rest days?
Well, I only did a bit each day (it was a 10 miles a day challenge), and most days I broke it up into sections - a couple of miles to work, then a couple at lunchtime, then some more home, then some more in the evening. It was about distance, not speed.
So those 31 days weren't "hard" days!
If you never need recovery days, you simply aren't training hard enough!

But, but, but...
Strava says all your rides are "epic", and you get a bigger "Suffer Score" than all your buddies.
Guess what.
You have your settings set wrong.
What Heart Rate did you use?
Just try it - set your heart rate just 5 beats per minute slower in Strava, and watch your Suffer Scores shoot up!
I'm 50, a little overweight, so I should have a maximum heart rate of 170, right? (220 - my age).
My Garmin 310xt says I have reached a heart rate of 182 cycling (downhill!), and 184 running (uphill).
(Btw, I have a second, "Bluetooth", heart rate belt that gives results on my smartphone consistent with my Garmin belt, so it's not that I have a "dodgy"/"worn out" belt, or a defective Garmin watch!)

If I use a maximum heart rate of 170 bpm for Strava, then everything I do is epic!

I can convert my max hr to an estimated " threshold hr" using a suitable bit I can find on the internet. 153bpm sound about right to you? I ran for an hour with an average heart-rate of 165 bpm. So my "threshold" isn't 153bpm either!
Yours might be, or it might not be.
Everyone is a bit different - and that's the point.
You should train for your body, not mine or anyone else's!

Want to play the "heart rate reserve" game?
My "resting heart rate" is 60 bpm, right? 
Same as everyone else's? 
Nope, mine is usually 47 or 48bpm.
I got 55 bpm at my last medical check, and I jogged to the medical centre (so it was hardly a " totally rested" measurement!).
I actually got 42bpm this morning, which is a bit low - I think I will mention it next time I see the doctor.
My "resting heart rate" is certainly NOT 60bpm.

Guessing and averages don't mean squat if you really want to train, not just play, with Strava.
My 200km badge.
Sorry about the furmiture :-)
I rode a 232km day in the Summer on an 18kg bike, with 10kg in the panniers on top of that. Carried all my own food and water.
That is MAYBE epic (but remember what they say - if you can ride 200km every day for a fortnight, you are good enough to come last in the Tour de France!)
I could barely walk when I finished.
Your little 30 minutes with a tailwind isn't epic.
It may well have been hard, but it wasn't epic.
If you can do it every day for a week, it certainly wasn't epic!
If you train hard, you need rest/recovery days.
If you train light (like my 31 days in January 2014), then you don't.
BUT ... if you only train light, you will never achieve your full potential.

Is "hard" the same for everyone?
I work with a guy in his 50s that can run a 3 hr marathon. I don't mean 3:59. I mean 3:00.
In "the season" he runs 4 days of 10km, and 2 half-marathons a week.
Now that's fit!
I've run exactly ONE half-marathon in the last 30 years. (Took me 2 hrs and 27 mins!)
My "hard" is his "light".
And guess what. 4x10km + 2x21km, and he still takes the seventh day as a " rest day".
So "hard" is a personal thing.
Don't look at Strava.
You know if it was hard.
Anything under an hour is likely to be "easy" - or at least "easier" - unless, of course, you are going at your "threshold"/"one hour pace" for that hour - even then, with a warm-up and cool-down, you are going to be more like an hour and a half (!).

First 10km I ran under an hour for 30 years - that was hard.
Set myself to run at about my "threshold", aiming to keep at 160 to 165 bpm. Ran it in 58m22s.
See what would have happened if I put my heart rate into Strava at too low a level?
I'd have been running for an hour, averaging 95% of my "maximum heart rate". All I had to do was put 153bpm into Strava as my LTHR, not a more realistic number (it was, last time, I tested it, about 165 bpm).
Surely "Epic", yet physiologically impossible. If you can run for an hour at 95% of your maximum heart rate, then you're simply using the wrong numbers (likely) or other is a fault with your smartphone/belt/Garmin (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

Go on, try it. Set your heart rate 10 bpm lower in Strava, and see what happens.
The find a real " pro" on Strava, like for instance LtD, and look at his rides. Mostly in zone 1. And he rides the Pro Tour. (And he takes rest days). It is the duration and speed COMBINED (thus distance) that makes his rides epic. But LtD is training for maybe 30 hours a week. You're not. (I'm not). And he still takes rest days.
10km for my " marathoner" colleague takes about 40 minutes, and is one of his "easier" days ☺ For him the 21kms are the "hard days".
But he still has his "rest" day.

10km for me is a "very hard day" if I do it in about an hour, so I NEED a rest day!
This difference in "hard" is why "individualization" came about. Train to YOUR body, not someone else's.

When you do hard days you damage your muscle fibres.
You gotta let the muscles heal up (they grow back stronger - that's why you get fitter!).
Not everybody has the same rate of muscle repair. Tends to be better when you are younger. I'm 50, so I'm not " younger" ☺
That's individualization, too.

You might need more than me. You might need less (especially if you are younger!)
Train to your body. Not someone else's.

Before a big event, take a rest. 
You might lose a touch of fitness (prevailing theory is that it takes two weeks of inactivity to lose one week of gains), but you need to be at you best on the start line.
For a local 100km event, I only did my walking and my commute for the week before the event. No extra cycling.
For the London to Brighton, I did the same.
For my 200km ride (that stretched to 232km on the day) I only did my walking and my basic commute for 2 weeks before, and I stayed indoors and just rested for the whole day before (and the whole day after).
But, hey, I'm 50, and getting back into shape after a long break (many years - work, life, family, you know how it goes).
30 years ago, I used to cycle 100+ km a week, and run 50+ km a week, no problems. But I was 20 kilos ( 44 lbs) lighter and 30 years younger then!
All that is individualization, too. That's me, at age 20, and at age 50.

You might need more recovery, you might need less. 
You need the amount YOUR BODY REQUIRES.

Training + Recovery = Fitness.
Training - Recovery = Less fitness, and more injury risk.

You pace yourself on events so you last the distance (remember the running I mentioned at the start - you run slower at the start of an 800m event than you do for a 100m event)
So make your training "paced"!
Your pacing will be different than mine - maybe "faster ", maybe "slower". 
Individualization, remember
Sooner or later you have to recover.

So train hard, rest properly, and don't be afraid to take "light days" if you are sick.  
You might recover quickly from illnesses, or you might not. Individualization, remember.
Train to your body, not to somebody else's body.
Train to your body, not to some book or training plan you downloaded off the internet.
Train well, live well, enjoy yourself, and succeed.


Go on, "Google" it.

Update Friday 18th December 2015:
Colds and illness all gone.
Today is a day off work.
I work a pattern with a different day off each week (yes, I work most Saturdays!)
Today I took it easy.
Cycled to work slowly (yes, it is my day off, but I did 3 hours overtime).
Cycled home slowly.
Did a gentle 3.5 km (call it 2 miles!) run with Anna.
And after lunch I had a 2 hour nap.

Naps are important. Pro athletes do it. So do I.

A bit of gentle cycling. A three-hour shift. A short, gentle, run. A nap.
That's a rest day :-)

So train hard, fulfill your potential, and enjoy your rest days!

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