The Fourth Season: Recovery

At our October TriCATs triathlon club meeting, Mary and Al Delaney gave a presentation on the ‘fourth season’, which we are entering into.  The first is our ‘base’ season, where we do a lot of base miles, we then have the ‘build’ season, where we ramp up the intensity and volume, and finally ‘race’ season. So what is the fourth season? Recovery.  In her presentation Mary said that we should go for at least 3 weeks with “no endorphyn’s”. Most of us chuckled, but by the end of the presentation I decided that I would follow her advice and do no exercise for 3+ weeks. It is now 22 days since I finished the Marine Corps Marathon so I figure that I’m allowed to start some training again. Let me explain why recovery is important, and why it is so hard for some people.

As anyone who exercises regularly know, exercise produces endorphyns which make you feel pretty good. If you are idle, give exercise a try and once you get over the discomfort you will find it feels good to train. Triathletes, who do a lot of training – I was up about 15+ h a week when I was getting ready for Ironman Korea – produce a lot of endorphyns and find it difficult to switch off.  But if we don’t take rest, we will likely wear our bodies out and that’s it.  Mary and Al have a great posting on their site on the importance of rest – and what may happen if we don’t.

If you do some research you’ll find that there are different views on the subject of rest, but by far the dominant view is that it is essential. As an example, we all know that Kenyan runners are hard to beat. Yet most rest from October through December. As the notes, it’s good for you psychologically (you can recharge your batteries), physiologically (repairs tissue damage and restores nutrients), for your immune system (which is often overstressed by heavy training and competition) and for your injuries (you can get them rehabilitated).

It is clear that there are major benefits but the challeng is to actually do it. Unlike many people, I had one major advantage: I was going overseas for 3+ weeks on work. What better way to be virtuous than to do it when I’m removed from the temptation of my daily workouts, riding to work, etc. In fact, when I was packing my wife noticed that I had left my running shoes out. When I told her why she said not to be that extreme, so they went along for the ride in case I wanted them.

The recovery season is a time to rest, work on your weakness, set goals for next year, plan your winter training, and spend time doing things other than working out. After reflecting on what I wanted to achieve in my recovery season I decided on the following in the exercise area:

  • Suppleness. I have very tight leg muscles, especially my IT bands. I have some yoga DVDs so my goal is to use them to stretch out. What’s nice about this is that during my 3 week ‘no endorphyn’ regime I could still do yoga.
  • Core Strength. Like many triathletes, I’m a dweeb when it comes to upper body strength and my core strength is lacking.
  • Swim Skills. I really need to work more on my stroke efficiency.

So those are my primary goals for my recovery season–and will continue into my base season. I’ve decided my recovery season will last until the end of December when Lis goes to New Zealand. I’ll then have lots of time for base season training until I join her in late January. Hopefully my body will respond to the rest, and I’ll avoid the scary situations Mary and Al described!

So on day 22 how is it going? Quite well thank you for asking. I’ve been doing my yoga 3-4 times a week and went swimming once. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is all the spare time that I have on hand! I’ve caught up with many, many things that have gone undone–some for too long. I’ve gone on one swim to practice my technique, and haven’t been on a bike at all.  So I feel that my body has had a good break and now it’s time to begin the core strengthening. Will do that as soon as I’m home next week. Let’s see how this helps me in my season to come.


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