With a lot of people having at least a small amount of down time over the Xmas, New year period, it is interesting to see how people are getting back into training. I recently had four weeks pretty much totally off following a long season of racing, both in Australia and Europe and after doing an Ironman in early December.
This break is essential to recharge not only the body, but the mind as well and it gives you a great chance to set some goals for the upcoming season. It is also very important to give your body the chance to repair and properly recover, which it doesn’t get the chance to do during repetitive training cycles.
Getting back into training following this down time is usually pretty tough and I have defiantly been feeling the couple of extra kilo’s and some of the lost form since getting back into training 2 weeks ago, along with plenty of others around me commenting on the same situation!
The first step when you are getting back into training, is to realise that this is totally normal. You will have lost a little form and no doubt feel heavy, but it is absolutely nothing to worry about. You will feel a lot worse initially than is actually the case and will normally start to feel a lot better, even feel good, after 2-3 weeks of training. The analogy I use with my athletes, is that the milk is there, but you just have to scrape the cream off the top (the fat!) to get to it.
Swimming is often quite hard initially, probably because it requires a lot more fine motor skills (small movements) than the other two sports. I think therefore it is quite important to swim regularly when you get started. Thus, with the athletes I coach, I have them swimming quite often, but shorter distances initially, in order to get the ‘feel’ of the water back.
Many athletes have GPS’, heart rate monitors, power meters and use the swim clock regularly in training. When you get back into it, put these aside. This is because during the initial phase, they are not going to be giving you the numbers you want to see. As I mentioned, it will not take long to get back to it, but many people are inclined to push harder when they are not seeing the numbers that they were just prior to their break. This then leads to training out of the desired training zones, especially as prior to the break the training was more than likely in a ‘race prep’ phase and when getting back into training after time off, most athletes should be doing a base period, which typically involves lower efforts and heart rates.
During the initial phase of getting back to training, it is vital that you pay attention to technique, with all three sports. This will greatly assist you in getting back to the level that you were before, by teaching your body correct movement patterns again. So slow your training down and reduce the fatigue of each session, which may involve longer breaks. Then really work hard on form rather than smashing yourself to get back to previous fitness level. Do drills to work on your individual weaknesses, not just the things that other people in your group are working on. If you rush this phase and add a lot of hard or long sessions too early, you are likely to pick up bad habits and more importantly not work on your own weak areas, which is fundamental to moving forward from last season. I wrote a recent blog on this “The definition of Insanity”
Following a break it is very likely you will have tight muscles and more than likely your core and key movement muscles are somewhat “switched off”. This is a vital time to stretch and do activation exercises with muscles groups that you are likely have problems with (often glutes and calfs). The body typically gets tight after a break, so make sure you work hard on this because as a physio I see far too many people that don’t address this aspect of getting back into training and end up injured. If you are unsure of what you need to work on as an individual it is a great idea to have a Musculoskeletal Screening done. I do these often for triathletes and it is a series of tests which looks at where the athlete is strong, weak, tight or if they have any asymmetries. A home program is then given to address any issues.
Diet is also a vital component to this phase of training. It is very important to get back into good habits. This will help all aspects; recovery, shifting excess weight and training capacity. Good quality ingredients, with loads of fruit and veggies and plenty of water, will all help you to “scrape the cream off the top” before you know it!