Two rest days in one week!? What am I supposed
to do with myself!?
Not being accustomed
to de-training, otherwise known as mixing in a recovery week between periods of
heavier training load, I find myself getting antsy. It's easy to let my mind
wander too far, especially with the availability of all this training data my
fitness watches and apps give me these days. It's easy to let fear creep in,
too: what if I lose my fitness?
That is absurd, of
course. I can't lose all my fitness in a week, and I especially can't lose all
my fitness during a week in which I spend most days working out! It is
physiologically easier to maintain fitness than to build it; that's one reason
why recovery weeks are important for good training. If I spent three weeks
ramping up my training load, I'd need some maintenance time -- that is, time
spent maintaining my current level of fitness, without pushing too hard -- in
order to decrease my overall levels of fatigue and prepare my body for the next
three weeks of heavy training.
This morning was a
case in point. I woke up at the usual time: early, so that I could get a
workout in. Today, however, is a rest day, so I closed my eyes for another
fifteen minutes of rest before having to take a shower and get dressed. I
closed my eyes momentarily, and when I opened them again, I discovered that I
had slept for an extra hour! This was technically no cause for alarm; I still
had plenty of time to get ready for work. What's remarkable is that, five days
into my recovery week, my body was still so exhausted from the previous three
weeks of training that I unintentionally nodded off for a whole hour.
The same thing
happened to me a couple of days back, too. On the agenda for the day was a
60-minute Z3 (tempo) run, which I happily completed in the warm March sun with
a smiling face, a lifted spirit, and spring in my step. When I got back to my
desk at work, I nearly nodded off. That evening, when I got home from work, I
took long nap, an hour or more of sleep that I normally wouldn't need.
I've never been one
for napping, not one to try to get more than my share of sleep. I like to get
up and be active. The fact that my body was basically taking me by the
proverbial shoulders, shaking me, and crying, "Nap, you dolt!" indicates just how much fatigue it's
currently dealing with. This kind of fatigue is precisely what recovery weeks
are aimed to alleviate. By next Tuesday, when I kick off a planned ten consecutive days of running with a
two-a-day, I should have recovered enough to go back to killing my workouts
with style. Or so I intend.
However, fatigue is not the most interesting feeling I have as I
work through this training schedule. Anticipation
is. I find myself looking ahead, not just at the workouts coming up this
weekend, but at the workouts coming up over the next two weeks.
Saturday, it will be
rather enticing 20-minute Z4 aerobic threshold run. Sunday's a bit of a downer;
it's a long run day, but I only get to run for a measly 60 minutes. Monday is a
prescribed cross-training day; the prescription is for 30 minutes of cross-training,
but how much fun is a 30-minute bike ride? Not as much fun as a 60-minute bike
ride, that's for sure! Then, the next two weeks will be dominated by exciting
"Mixed Runs," consisting of intervallic alternations between not just
aerobic threshold pace and recovery pace, but also tempo pace and random pace
variations. There are so many different kinds
of workouts coming up over the next month that I have to look forward to. I'm
positively bubbly over it.
this effervescence, demonstrates something that has been missing from my
training for quite some time: real variety.
I haven't had this much training variety to look forward to in years. Even my
P90X training, which emphasizes "muscle confusion," and thus variety,
hasn't offered me the same kind of variety that this half-marathon training
schedule has. (To be fair, it is economically infeasible to produce a
video-based workout series with this amount of variety. You can't produce 112
workout videos and expect to make money on a venture like that! Besides, most
people cannot commit to the full 90 days of a P90X program, much less to sixteen week of serious training for
training schedules, or perhaps we should say long
form training schedules, have that advantage over home video series and
"couch-to-5K" beginner programs. Freed from the confines of a flashy
package and every-man marketing principles, unconstrained by the need to sell
non-athletes on a quick fix, long form training schedules can get an athlete
down to business, offering difficult workouts, comprehensive recovery weeks,
and a wider variety of workouts than people normally get from online home
workout programs. That's their advantage.
It's not so very
different from watching a movie or reading a book. Most people appreciate the
flashiness and shorter timeframe of a good movie, but those of us who can
commit to a thousand pages of Moby Dick
gain access to the advantages of long form storytelling. Physical fitness works
much the same way.