As a coach, I don’t do rest weeks. I don’t schedule drop off tapers either. Personally, I dose the volume, the intensity and position the sessions so there is optimal absorption.
In my opinion, rest weeks are not great psychologically or physically, not that there’s any real difference between the two.
One impacts the other because, essentially, there is no other. Now, I guess this is not every coach's cup of tea, but it is my direct experience.
Psychologically, rest weeks are an attachment. The mind grabs hold of them and uses the rest week to motivate the athlete through the other three weeks. Its dangling a carrot like you need a treat to get the work done. It’s habit-forming. It’s dangerous, the motivation needs to be deeper than that.
Now, every second person tells me they need a mental break, that’s an alarm right there, it’s not about what you are doing, it’s about what you are thinking.
The prince is rhythm and the king is consistency! For every action, there is a reaction. If you break the cycle, the rhythm and the consistency, you’d better be ready for the reactive backlash.
If you drop the ball, the ball is dropped. Why is it a surprise then, when all of a sudden your body feels like shit and your brain feels like mush?
For me, as a coach, Ive watched closely the reactive patterns in rest weeks, drop tapers and weeks of inactivity after major races. Injury, sickness, apathy, fatigue, malaise, even anxiety and depression are part of that backlash.
If your body and mind sees the gap, it goes after the super compensation and sits you on your arse. That’s natural though, that’s what you’d expect.
You are energetic, wave-like. If you change something rapidly, there is naturally going to be backwash and backlash. Now, I’m not talking about not resting and recovering. This is where we get it wrong, it’s not only about rest.
It’s about absorption and sustaining development. So, don’t lose your rhythm to achieve it. Keep it active for both your body and your mind. They both need it.
Don’t inform your body and mind that they can let go or that’s exactly what they will do. I’d like a dollar for every injury and illness I’ve witnessed in so-called recovery weeks, or refractory inactivity in the wake of an Ironman, for instance.
The worst bloody thing you can do in the wake of an Ironman is stop. Its bad for your body and diabolical for a mind that has become accustomed to that training rhythm. Trust me, that void will be filled with anxiety, apathy and malaise.
How many people are reading this and feeling seen? In the wake of Ironman, if you are going to stop altogether, do it slowly, methodically and gently.
You will vastly improve your chances of staying healthy physically and psychologically if you follow this advice. Last piece of advice for those who need to hear this, don’t sit on your half acre in tapers and eat like you’ve been on a desert island without food for 6 weeks.
I don’t care what that dietitian told you that you got your advice from in the final week, don’t do it. I’ve never seen it work.
It’s about staying as close to your rhythm as you can. Change as little as you can, drop the volume and intensity, but don’t drop the frequency and you won’t drop your bundle.