Every training plan has at least one day of recovery included each week.
On the training plan, this may be listed as a complete day of rest. For more intermediate or advanced plans, there may be a day of light cross training suggested instead of a complete day off.
Either way, these planned recovery days, maybe you call them rest days from your normal training, are an important part of your training plan. Recovery days are designated days for your body to, well, recover (!) from previous training sessions. It rejuvenates your body so it can be better prepared for upcoming training sessions so you can get the most out of those workouts, and ultimately improve your fitness so you can have the best race day ever!
There is a place for recovery days in every training plan, from beginner training plans to advanced training plans.
In particular, for cyclists, runners, swimmers, and triathletes, the day-over-day training consists of a lot of repetitive movements. This repetitive nature of cycling, running, and swimming creates a greater possibility of injuries. This makes prevention all the more important. And your recovery day can become a good dedicated day for some prevention steps!
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Make it an active recovery day
Recovery days become even more important following hard intense training sessions. And sometimes it’s beneficial to not be completely sedentary on a day off. By giving your muscles a little bit of movement following a hard workout, you can help to minimize stiffness by bringing circulation to your muscles. This also helps to speed up the recovery process.
So instead of taking a complete day off, there are a few things you can do to make the most of these recovery days, so that you can in turn get the most out of your training plan!
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Yoga or stretching
It would be great if you are already doing a few yoga poses or stretches following every bike ride, run, or swim! (Even just 5 minutes each time is better than nothing!) A recovery day is also a great time to expand the duration or number of yoga poses or stretches you do. It will help improve your flexibility which can help to reduce your chances of getting a number of different types of injuries.
Massage or foam rolling
A rest day is a good day to make an appointment for a massage to massage out those tight muscles. Alternatively, take some time during the day to get in some foam rolling exercises to loosen up some of your muscles that have been working hard for you.
This can be especially useful after an intense training session, or after race day, to bring circulation to the muscles to loosen them up. 15-20 minutes of a light walk can work well here. An easy-feel bike ride or run can also do your body some good.
Avoid strenuous chores
Now, you want to have an active recovery day, but you don’t want to get too active! You may be thinking that a non-training day frees up all this time to get stuff done around the house. But if can, you want to limit strenuous activities on your recovery days. This includes household chores that require a lot of energy or errands that have you running around or on your feet all day.
Active recovery for injury prevention
Use your recovery day as a time to focus on injury prevention that you otherwise may overlook during the rest of your training week! This will ultimately make you a stronger cyclist, runner, or swimmer, and it will allow you to get the most out of all the time you are putting into training for the big race!
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