September 17


Knowing When to Back Off

Today I had to back off of my training.  As a type A endurance athletes this is not always the easiest thing to do, but let me assure you that it is so important when your body is speaking to you.  Let me set the stage for you.  My big goal race is in late November and I have a few half ironmans along the way to keep my training focused.  These last few weeks I have experienced some really remarkable breakthroughs in my training.  As a whole, I have been feeling strong and very determined.

On Thursday of this week I completed my usual bike power intervals and by the end of the workout, I felt my body struggle to make my usual time marks.  No big deal because I still hit my marks.  On with the day.  Throughout the day I felt a little sluggish and tired so I made a mental note.  Friday’s run was a 12 miler at an easy pace.  The first mile was unusually tough despite the fact I was 45 seconds off of my already “easy” pace.  I allowed my body to warm up into the pace, but I never really did.  By this time I abandoned my “easy” pace goal and decided to cut the run short (9 miles) and just call it a day.  I figured the really relaxed pace, shortened mileage and extra rest would set me up nicely for Saturday’s workout.

By 7:00 on Friday night I was struggling to stay awake and ended up falling asleep for an hour or so.  When I woke up that evening I prepared my gear for Saturday’s workout.  I was in bed by 9:15.  I was fully prepared to complete my bike ride and transition run the next day.  However, when the alarm went off, my body said otherwise.  Let me clarify a few things.  I love to get up early and I have almost no problem jumping out of bed when the alarm goes off at 4 AM.  As sick as it may sound, I am excited about working out.  Not today. I decided to skip my workout altogether.

I share this with you because I want to emphasize an important point that is so crucial for getting the most out of your body.  Follow your training plan, but above all else, listen to your body.  Beginning on Thursday my body started speaking to me.  I have learned to be in tune with what my body is saying.  Friday my body began to speak louder and I took steps to alleviate the overworked feeling.  This was not enough because on Saturday morning I still felt the fatigue so I abandoned my workout plans and got in an extra 3 hours of sleep.  It’s Saturday about 10 am and I am already feeling better.

If I did not back off my training, then Saturday’s training would have been a waste – it would have been an aerobic workout, but at this point in my training this is not what I am trying to target (at least not for my Saturday workout).  Sunday’s open water swim and long run would have taken a hard hit and by Monday I would have been in a serious deficit.  At some point during the week my body would have tapped out and waiting until your body flat out refuses to perform will require more than just skipping one workout.  Sometimes it can take days to bounce back.

Principles to remember

  • The recovery period after workouts is what allows your body to adapt to the training.  No recovery equals no adaptation and  no adaptation equals no improvement.
  • Each workout has a purpose.  Make sure you go into the workout willing and able to meet the demand of the workout.
  • Backing off of a workout does not mean you’re a “quitter”.  It means you’re smart and you care about your long term performance.
  • Make your hard days “hard” and your easy days “easy”
  • A little rest can do wonders.
  • Be in tune with your body and learn to listen


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