A question I often get from athletes is how come they feel so tired during recovery weeks or during their taper periods. First off, another name for recovery week is ‘adaptation’ week. In a periodized training program, we put a great deal of training stress on our bodies in blocks of between 2-4 weeks’ time, depending on your coach’s protocols. This is called supercompensation, where the additional volume, frequency, and/or intensity demands cause a stress response to the muscles and cardiovascular system. While we build incremental rest into our weekly programming, invariably the human body needs a recovery week. This week is when the body begins to adapt to the stresses, healing in a more powerful configuration or physiology.
That adaptation can cause the body to be more tired than usual, as it is invariably healing to be stronger. Without proper sleep or nutrition, the body will not be given a chance to get stronger, so the risk of injury going forward increases as the fatigued system can break down.
This doesn’t hold true just during the recovery week, but also within each training week itself. If you perform a hard workout and you don’t sleep before or afterwards, something’s going to give. You’ll get injured. You’ll develop additional mental and emotional stress. You will begin to show signs of overtraining, which could take weeks or months to recover from. So too, in the adaptation week, you need to pay special attention to resting and nutrition, as well as the usual flexibility and stability work.
Some people confuse the adaptation week as one where you can go out and party. Known as the “Live” week to some, this is an unfortunate moniker. High performance training doesn’t coexist well with a partying lifestyle, I’m afraid. However, there’s plenty of fun things we can do in our adaptation weeks as well as during our training weeks too that doesn’t involve burning the candle at both ends.
Another name for the adaptation week is the ‘drop’ week, sometimes called a ‘taper’ week if before a race. I like the term drop week. Some people are confused by just how much less volume or intensity they’ll get in a recovery/adaptation week. The answer is, it depends. Depends on what came before (Race? tough training week? long set of weeks of training? a hard camp?). Depends on the athlete. Depends on what is coming up (race?). The general rule of thumb in my programming is anywhere from a 30-50% drop in volume and/or intensity. Since we go by training stress score, this is usually where we work from.
Another name for the recovery/drop/adaptation week is the ‘down’ week. I find that one to be the most interesting of all. Quite frequently people can have feelings of depression or moodiness in a lower volume week or period. This is especially true immediately before a big race like an Ironman, where feelings of doubt or guilt can creep in. ‘What have I done?’ “What have I committed myself to?” “This has been a very selfish period in my life.” “What if I fail?” and so on.
These are all very normal thoughts and feelings during recovery periods. Many people report feeling like this whenever there is a recovery week or taper period. Just be mindful of it and realize that the feeling/emotion will pass and that it may be more related to hormones than anything.
At the end of the day, whenever we plan for a recovery week, the main thing for us to achieve other than rest and proper nutrition is to experience our friends and loved ones as best we can, of course telling them we appreciate their patience through this period.
As always, any questions please feel free to call, email, or visit me at the studio during one of the sessions that I coach.