Anyone undertaking a training program, be it for a marathon in October, a local 5k parkrun or a triathlon next summer will understand the commitment to training needed to achieve their goal. Early morning training sessions take the place of social nights out at the weekend, evenings in front of the tv on a dark, wet evening are replaced with a quick paced run, turbo bike session or swim. As time goes on and fatigue plays a bigger role, more training sessions are missed and more money starts to go towards increasing physio appointments as niggles appear, recover, and reappear. Those without an athletic goal in the year will understand the mentality of a “new year’s resolution” that is set out to achieve a specific number of steps or distance a day, with the dog walked in all weathers for January, before slowly petering off in Feb. By March, these resolutions are a distant memory laughed about as we resume our normal lives and activities. So what is the common denominator?

With all training programs, we focus on what we can squash into a 24-hour day, minus time for work, eating and sleeping. Often sleeping time is reduced as we try to fit in early morning or late evening training sessions around the constants of our daily lives. Our body’s ability to recover relies on sufficient time for the recovery process as well as adequate fuelling and hydration to support. Looking at a schedule of a late-night training session on a Monday, short sleep and early start Tuesday for another training session significantly reduces the recovery time possible between these sessions. Extend this across days, weeks and months and your body will feel the effect in its inability to recover. As you become more fatigued, motivation will decrease, injuries can increase and you enter an unproductive cycle.

AM Light sessionKey session Moderate sessionKey session  Rest day
PMModerate session  Light session  

Using the diagram above, when planning out your ideal training week, look at your most important “key” training sessions, schedule these with at least 1 day in between. After this, populate the remainder of your training around these key sessions, aiming to maximise the rest both in between sessions and for your recovery day. Around your training, plan your refuelling to accelerate the recovery process. For example, if you are driving to work in traffic after an early morning session, have your breakfast in the car that you can eat on the go. Look at your daily activities particularly on heavy training days and try to decrease this, or account for this within your overall training week. Avoid sticking to this schedule rigidly week to week and instead look to plan out your week on a Sunday, taking into account daily life activities that come up and impact on your training and recovery.

Silhouette of an exhausted sportsman at sunset with the horizon in the background

The key is good recovery is taking the time to recovery on those set days. Good fuelling will be essential to recover from the session and previous week of training whilst preparing for the training the next day. Limit your activity on your rest day – if you aren’t training, avoid a significant increase in your daily activity where you might feel you cannot sit and rest. If you feel you need to do something, some gentle mobility and stretching should be the extent of your activity. The psychological element of recovery is also important.

Dr. Ciara Sinnott-O’Connor PhD


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