This is why it is very important to insert a recovery week every 4-5 weeks in your training. I train myself and my athletes on a 5- to 6-week cycle. I know that by the beginning of the final hard week, while I might feel fine and perform well, I’m also waking up with less enthusiasm for getting out of bed and hitting it. It’s not, “Boy, I can’t wait for my recovery week.” Rather, I’m thinking, “I feel fine, but the thought of going hard today is not super.” Yet, I complete the workout and it goes well.
My point is that the accumulation of fatigue is prodding me and letting me know that it’s about time to give it a rest. So, for the recovery week, I’ll sleep a little more, train a little less (and easier), and by the end of this week, I’ll be ready to burst out of the gates again - mentally, emotionally and physically refreshed. And I’ll notice a sharp uptick in the quality of my workouts versus those completed toward the end of the previous cycle.
It is the recovery week that allowed for this uptick. Your fitness either increases or decreases. Very rarely does it plateau. But, if you try to increase your fitness day after day, week after week, without allowing yourself consistent, periodic breaks, your fitness and performance will begin to fall away and lead to a combination of frustration, injury or sickness.
The insertion of deliberate breaks in training is even more important for the Masters athlete. Those over 40 years old can work out just as hard and be just as fast as the young bucks. However, as we age, we also need to be more cognizant of our recovery and honor what the body is telling us. We may need more space between hard workouts and we may need to dial back our recovery weeks more than we used to, in terms of volume and any intensity we do incorporate. But, make no mistake -- recovery weeks are critical to improvement.
If you incorporate recovery weeks already - great job! If you don’t - try it, you’ll like it!