Should You Take A Regular Recovery Week?

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Here's a question we just received from Guru user Brad Ermeling in Shanghai:

Ok... I'm addicted to this Guru site. Signed up for pro version and I'm amazed at all the resources!

I'm following the plan you recommended and it's been terrific. I've made so much progress with both fitness and technique in a short time. Thank you again.

One follow-up question... as I continue the 5 days per week routine, how many weeks or months should I sustain that before taking a lighter week? I think I read somewhere that it's good to train for three weeks and then take a recovery week. What would a recovery week look like? Swimming less days? No swimming? Same number of days but lighter workouts? Can you give a quick example of a recovery week?



"Should I be taking a regular recovery week?" is a classic question we get asked a lot by swimmers and triathletes who are serious about their training. Here's our thoughts:

When NOT To Schedule Regular Rest Periods

If you're training 8 hours a week or less (and 8 hours is quite a lot of swimming!) then it's unlikely you're going to need to additional scheduled recovery time into your routine. If you are going nicely with your weekly training and only occasionally feel tired when you swim then just keep training.

Then, as you go along:

- You’ll occasionally get fatigued to the point you feel tired in the water and perhaps don't feel like training either. When that happens take a few extra easy days (more on how to do that below). If you catch this early then you won’t need a full easy week, just 2-4 easy days.

- Life will throw something at you, perhaps a virus or maybe a panic at work and for that reason you have to take some time off training.

So training less than 8 hours a week (all sports) be prepared to take extra time off as and when necessary - but do this responsively, don't schedule it ahead of time. If things go brilliantly you might train many months without any additional rest but life normally doesn’t work like that!

When To Schedule Regular Rest Periods

If you're training 10 hours or more per week (all sports if a multisport athlete) then it's worth considering scheduling an easy week every 4 weeks or so (the classic routine is 3 full weeks training and then 1 easy week).

10 hours swimming a week is pretty serious training and normally only applies to elite pool swimmers or open water marathon swimmers. Of course if you're a triathlete you will hit 10 hours a week more easily as you train for three sports.

Over and above the 10 hours guideline, your recovery needs are going to depend on the intensity of your training and your own individual ability to absorb hard work. However you train, if you find that you are continuously and progressively getting more tired then experiment with  scheduling an easy week to see how it works for you:

- Reduce the number of training session you do slightly - if you normally swim 5 times per week then reduce to 3-4 days.

- Make the distance of each session a bit shorter, perhaps two thirds normal distance. So swimming 2km rather than 3km, or 3km instead of a full 4km Red-Mist.

- Also drop your training intensity down - so you might still swim a shortened CSS set but 2-3 seconds per 100m slower pace, which will make it considerably easier.

- You should finish each session feeling good but if you do feel heavy fatigue in the water then abandon the session and get out.

- If you feel very tired or burned-out then don't train at all and take total rest. If you have got to this point you need to review your whole training routine as it's likely too much for you and you're over-training.

- It's common for athletes to feel a little lethargic during a recovery week. Keep some training going and you should feel more lively after 4-5 days.

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