Recovery and Rest Days
Recovery and rest days during the course of any training cycle are just as important (or maybe even more important!) than the actual physical training that takes place. That’s a powerful and thought-provoking statement.
In reality, all one is doing during the physical training is “breaking down” the physical components of exercise; you actually become a better athlete during the rest period, when the rebuilding to a higher level occurs. This is also the case for recovery—both mental and physical—during the offseason season. Let’s talk about this.
Coaches Need a Rest Period
Recovery can be defined as both the physical and mental getting away from the daily routines that make up any complete training program. There is a tendency among some athletes and coaches to have a shorter recovery time at the end of a season, especially if that season’s goals have not been met. This is faulty thinking. Frankly, the recovery period after a “poor” season should probably be longer, rather than shorter. Many top-notch coaches I know tell their athletes after a season ends, “Call me when you are both physically and mentally ready to start training again.” This is probably the best way to look at recovery.
Coaches, too, need a rest period. A good coach is thinking 24/7 about the athlete’s preparation. But this constant attention to detail can short-circuit any coach’s creative talents.
Additionally, a complete separation of coach and athlete during this recovery period is a good thing! Any coach-athlete relationship that results in a successful season is full of back-and-forth, and pushing each other to better their technique, performance or outcomes. This daily tension is necessary for success. But this dynamic also requires time for rest, recovery and recharging for the next go-round
Separation of Coach and Athlete
Additionally, a complete separation of coach and athlete during this recovery period is a good thing! Any coach-athlete relationship that results in a successful season is full of back-and-forth, and pushing each other to better their technique, performance or outcomes. This daily tension is necessary for success. But this dynamic also requires time for rest, recovery and recharging for the next go-round.
I personally do not assign any offseason training programs for athletes I coach. If you feel like doing something physical on any particular day, do it. If not, don’t worry that you are getting out of shape. All of what you do physically in any given year of training doesn’t go away during the offseason. Sure, the first few workout sessions of the next season will be tough, but athletes bounce back very quickly. Here, trust is important.
Develop a Plan for the New Season
And for any coach developing a plan of attack for a new season: Let’s say the past season was fantastic—goals met, championships won, staying healthy all year, and so on. Don’t fall into the trap of looking back at your workouts from that previous season and repeating exactly what you did to achieve that success. Coaching and athletic performance is an art, and coaches and athletes have to make changes and new decisions each day and each year. Use your past training as a guide to future success, but critically evaluate where your athlete is at a given time of the season and decide what you have to do to improve from there.
For example, in 2012, decathlete Ashton Eaton broke two world records, and won two national championships, the world indoor championships, the Olympic Trials and an Olympic gold medal. A pretty good season. Yet, in 2013, his training did not exactly follow his training from the season before. We adjusted to point to just one competition, the world championships in Moscow, in August 2013. And he won there, too!
Both coach and athlete need to think critically about recovery. A refreshed body and mind can go so much further the next season and have a better chance of staying healthy along the way. Trust the process and enjoy the journey.