Sorry for the slight lapse in posts. I managed to write enough content to cover the time when I was away, but not to cover the time when jet lag incapacitated me! Which handily enough ties to this post on rest and training cycles.
I trained hard for the eight weeks prior to going to Cuba for a two-week holiday. I did this, despite being on a calorie deficit for the same period, knowing I would have plenty of rest and recovery time before the next chunk of training took place. I am now, after a week getting going again with some light training, starting a new ten-week training cycle. I also knew this was the plan (though I didn’t plan the details of it until I was away, with rum to help the process 😉 ) after I got back. There was no guilt over doing different activities in those two(ish) weeks, or of eating different things, or having some alcohol.
Rest and recovery are underrated aspects of any athletes life. I have already written about recovery strategies, but making sure to have adequate rest, and using activity recovery, are essential aspects of it as well.
Any good training plan should contain cycles of varying lengths. The technical name for these cycles is periodization. They allow for peaking for PB attempts, competitions, seasons, or some other training goal. It is not realistic for the body to be constantly at the top level without progressions and then dropping back a certain amount. Deloading, where activity continues, but volume lifted or maximum weight (or both) are lowered, can also be used when looking to do active recovery rather than complete rest.
I’ve used de-loading in the 5/3/1 and 5×5 plans I’ve followed in the past as they were pre-programmed. I’ve also used kettlebell training programs that look to peak for competitions but are only 8-12 weeks long, with some drop in volume during that time. I chose to use the holiday as rest time but ensuring I would keep my body moving. We did a lot of walking, at temperatures much higher than we were used to, swimming, and even a couple of short weight sessions. But I was not doing any major cardio. No compound lifts. No long cycle. Though I did have a sneaky extra sports massage for a bargain price in Havana.
And while I’ve lost some cardio endurance, I feel so much better for it. My cardio will come back pretty quickly as I’ve not had that long off. But the constant aches and pains I didn’t realise I had had for a few weeks until then did go. My sports massage before leaving demonstrated muscle tension in places that I don’t usually get it. The second massage was almost as painful. But a week off lifting heavy had a beneficial mental and physical benefit. I didn’t crave training for the first ten days at all (though I admit to looking forward to getting back to it as I planned the next ten weeks). I did maintain or increased my step count according to the tracker in my watch, but out of circumstance rather than to compensate. I suspect the extra food helped in the healing too, but I was sensible a lot of the time. Rum aside 😉 I also made sure to keep an eye on my hydration, especially in temperatures of around 35C most days. The water will have helped the healing, removal of waste products, and shuttling the new nutrients to where they needed to be as well as stopping me overheating.
Interestingly though, my strength seemed to be fairly unaffected. Feeling tired (jet lag insomnia, so already missing the sleep component of recovery) and bloated from flying, I did a five-minute long cycle set at only three reps less than the week before going. It didn’t feel as comfortable for cardio/endurance reasons alone. I followed that up with a ten-minute set using the 16kg bell with extra swings for grip work. Given that was my competing weight, and I would have struggled with it following using the 20kg not so long ago this was also good progress. I then managed to pick up on farmers walk handles holding as much as I was deadlifting without straps before going away (and struggling with due to lower calories then). Then performed both assisted (band) and unassisted pull-ups. I’d not done any pull-ups since I hurt my elbow, so I was happy 🙂
I hope this convinces you that training cannot be full on all of the time. I’ve trained to injury before now, and I hope I’m more experienced and wiser. And yet again my body backed me up in these decisions while away. And punished me on resuming training with my new plan with some major DOMS today 😉
I’m not advocating complete inactivity for long periods of time, as keeping strength and cardio ticking over is beneficial for health, but being realistic and using recovery and rest wisely can help your gains. It’s also good to kick back and enjoy events and holidays. Remember that mental health is as important as physical health. I enjoyed the time relaxing with the hubby, and I’ve come back re-focused on my nutrition and training goals. Without the break, I’d be likely to have a muscle strain and binged on peanut butter 😀
P.S. The old American cars are great fun, and good to look at. The old Ladas, however… A lot less impressive 😉