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?
When NOT To Schedule Rest Periods
If you're training 8 hours a week or less (which is quite a lot of swimming!) then it's unlikely you're going to need to schedule regular 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 very flat when swimming 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 a few easy days.
- Life will throw something at you, perhaps a cold or a major rush at work and you have to take some time off training for that reason.
If things go brilliantly you might train many months without any additional rest but life normally doesn’t work like that. So you will get extra time off as and when necessary but it’s unscheduled, it's just taken as needed.
When To Schedule Regular Rest Periods
If you're training 10 hours or more per week (all 3 sports if a triathlete) 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 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, whether you need to schedule regular recovery periods is going to depend on the intensity of your training and your own individual ability to absorb it. As you train if you find that you are getting progressively more tired and start to lack motivation then it's sensible to try adding in 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 / 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.
- Sometimes athletes start to feel a little lethargic during a recovery period - that's normal. Keep some training going and you should feel more lively after 4-5 days.