The Knowledge by Wahoo

The Value of Not Training

Episode Summary

The Knowledge is a new podcast from Wahoo. It provides straightforward, science-based, useful information from world-class experts to help endurance athletes maximize their performance. Sports scientists Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin discuss a single training topic in each episode and provide key takeaways to apply to your training.

Episode Notes

Welcome back to The Knowledge Podcast by Wahoo. In this episode Host, Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin are taking a break! Not from the podcast but specifically they discuss why and the importance of how to plan and maximize your recovery. Low endurance training, active recovery and just kicking back and relaxing. All this and more in this episode of The Knowledge Podcast.

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Episode Transcription

Neal  0:00  

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the knowledge podcast brought to you by the wahoo sports science team here in Boulder, Colorado. I'm Neal Henderson, head of wahoo sports science.


Mac  0:09  

And I'm Mac Cassin, senior sports scientist here at Weill who, today we're going to be talking about offseason breaks and why not training is a super important part of the training process.


Neal  0:18  

Mac, you're crazy talking over there not training is training. What do you seriously? Come on?


Mac  0:23  

It's true.


Neal  0:25  

All right, well, okay, if we think about training as a process of creating stress and doing work, well, you know, we just need to do work, right. And then we get better. I mean, I have to do work to get better, I have to create stress in the body, right.


Mac  0:42  

But then you also need to let your body you know, adapt to that give it some time to catch up to all that stress, you just put it under,


Neal  0:48  

If I sleep at night, isn't that enough?


Mac  0:50  

It's not actually it's enough to get you through day-to-day training. But with everything you need to build up, back off, regrow, repeat.


Neal  0:58  

This backing off thing. So you're saying like just getting good sleep and eating well, and you know, all that is not enough to make me faster,


Mac  1:07  

Not in the long term, you need to be a bit smarter about it, and take a bit more, go a bit easier on the gas pedal from time to time.


Neal  1:15  

Okay, so like from time to time. So I guess, when I look at training plans, almost all of them have some kind of like, have a recovery day, or easier days during the week. And then even you know, most of them have kind of that easier week Recovery Week, every few weeks, I guess there are different types of setups on that. Sometimes it's just a couple of weeks, sometimes a little bit longer. But those weeks are okay, easier. But we're still training right during that period,


Mac  1:42  

You are Yeah, you're still going to be doing active recovery, or at least low-intensity endurance training. But that's a transition period within the season between blocks. But really, when you talk about a year, on the whole, you really need a time where you're not even doing the sport you're training for.


Neal  1:58  

Hmm, so I like cars kind of except when they try to hit me when I'm on my bike, and I don't like them very much. But I'm gonna use a car analogy, like having a training plan. It's kind of like, if I'm going on a road trip, I'm driving down the highway. And while as I get started, I guess I if I'm using a manual car, which is the proper kind of car to drive. To get faster, I have to put in the clutch and shift gear. So like a rest day arrest week might be kind of like putting in the clutch and shifting gears so I can accelerate and do more, would that be an accurate assessment?


Mac  2:33  

That would be you need to slowly progress. And as you build up, you're going down the gears, you're going faster and faster. But you're still gonna run to a point where that car is you're about out of gas, and you need to stop at a gas station.


Neal  2:45  

So is that what an offseason break is like pulling off the highway and coming to a complete stop?


Mac  2:51  

It is indeed.


Neal  2:53  

Okay, so when I'm stopped, I can get fuel I can put, you know, check the oil, add some oil, if needed, I can you know to repair any damage maybe I've done along the way. And okay, this is kind of making sense. So like an off-season break is kind of that that reset and allow things to be able to continue to move forward though, stopping and doing nothing is part of that moving forward.


Mac  3:17  

Yeah. And with that analogy in mind, it's the same as you don't want to just drive that car until you run out of gas, and be stranded somewhere and have to go through a bunch of struggles to get topped up again,


Neal  3:26  

I just call AAA...


Mac  3:28  

You kids and your cellular devices. lol


Neal  3:32  

That's true, I have had to take a bike out of the back of a car and ride 15 miles along with it in Montana at night, and I wouldn't recommend it to get gas, no cell phone service, and whatnot. So planned breaks are better than planned breaks.


Mac  3:47  

Right? And that's what we're talking about here. And, you know, I think some people you know, they look at pros, and they'll hear that, okay, pros take a month off during the year. And they'll say, Well, I'm not training as much as a pro. So I don't, I don't need to take that time off. I'm not doing 20 hours a week. So why do I need a month?


Neal  4:02  

Well, I think that offseason break duration is clearly something that varies depending on how long and hard your season is, you know, a full-time pro who's maybe racing, you know, nine or eight 910 months of the year, for sure probably needs a little bit longer, complete rest and break. But even those of us who train, you know, five, eight hours a week, need to have these offseason breaks to hit kind of the full reset. And it's not just a physical aspect of rest and recovery, but it's also really the mental aspect and being able to kind of recharge mentally and be able to feel rejuvenating and get your motivation back and ready to train. Right?


Mac  4:47  

Yeah, definitely. You want to make sure that when you start another big training block that you're kind of itching to get back out to training. The worst thing you can do for the very start of a season or the end of one is just kind of Keep sort of training hard and not really getting that motivation back and then just completely, you know, fallen off the wagon midseason when it's really important to be on top of your training.


Neal  5:10  

So if you're thinking of a minimum duration for an offseason break, what would you say is like, okay, no less than x?


Mac  5:18  

Two weeks, two weeks, two weeks. And that's generally at least one should be really truly like doing nothing, which can be very difficult for the Type A athlete type who always wants to be doing something, but you train hard, so you should be able to rest hard too.


Neal  5:36  

Counterbalance it. Okay, so what about on the longer side? Like, if you have a big, long, hard season, you're just really tired, maybe almost on that kind of like mentally and physically burned outside of things at the end? How long might an offseason then extend?


Mac  5:54  

I mean, three, three or four weeks would be, you know, not would be super common and, and one thing that people kind of overanalyze overthink is they feel that, okay, if I take three weeks off for four weeks off, I'm gonna lose that lap past 11 months of training that I've completed. And that's just not true.


Neal  6:11  

Yeah, I mean, there may be some decreases in immediate capacity. But it's an important part of that kind of reset rebuild, a good way to come out of recovery, like the offseason is to have a little bit of a transition, right. So you don't just go from like, okay, I did my season, I took two weeks completely off. And now I'm just full bore right into the next plan, like, you want to give a little transition. And that often, you know, a one to two week period, where you're definitely increasing your level of activity, you may do some of your training, you know, you may be on the bike some but you may mix it up more, maybe some more like running or hiking or riding a different kind of bike different types of terrain than you normally would in your training. Also, a great time to be including some more of your, you know, what you might be doing in that early season with strength training and adapting getting your muscle and, you know, tendons and bones, etc. Ready for a little bit more stress, but not under like your full training load. Right?


Mac  7:15  

Yeah, you definitely if you're it's great to do those sort of novel training sessions, stuff that you wouldn't normally do in the season. But you do need to be smart about it. You don't want to go out for a trail run at the end of your break and fracture your ankle.


Neal  7:28  

No personal experience back.


Mac  7:30  

No, not at all. That's That's crazy. Why would I on my last day before getting back to training get so itching to go do something that I'd decided to go do a trail run at twilight? And yeah, that just that doesn't sound like me at all?


Neal  7:43  

Yeah, I think I kind of vaguely remember something like that happening in the past, unfortunately, extra unplanned break after? Well, from a practical point of view, for those who have difficulty like thinking about that full rest aspect of the important part of the training needs to be there like, a great way to do that is to have a vacation schedule, especially one where bringing a bike is really not reasonable. And so I mean, you don't have to, like make a trip to Antarctica or something like that. But you just need to have some sort of plan where again, you can fully hit that that reset and relax. So vacation is often a good way to do that. Right?


Mac  8:28  

Yeah, well, definitely a lot of athletes I've worked with they'll have a vacation, even if it's not during that offseason, but like a five-day vacation in the middle of the year. And there'll be kind of panic of Okay, I can maybe get my bike if I do this, or I think I found this gym there that I can go to a couple of times. And it's just like, no, it's that's a perfect time to not be on your bike to just relax, enjoy your vacation, you're going on a vacation for a reason. So enjoy it and spend that time with maybe your friends family that is harder to do in the season, when you are training full bore.


Neal  8:57  

Definitely, you actually mentioned something interesting that like during the season having some of these periods so not just like this one offseason break like okay, taking that offseason break I think we've established is pretty important and critical. But even in season. So having kind of mini or mid-season breaks is probably something that has value, right?


Mac  9:20  

Yeah, definitely. Especially if you have, you know, multiple events that you're kind of working towards throughout the year. Like, that's a great time you're going to be peaking you hit your event, take you to know, a few days off, take the rest of that, assuming your events over the weekend, take the rest of that, that following week just to reset, you know, maybe take that time to reflect on what went well what maybe didn't go so well in your previous block of training for that event. And use that time to just back off on the physical side get fully recovered physically and mentally. And you know, that'll set you up really well. So when you do get back to training, again over five days, you're not going to lose a year's worth of fitness. You're not even going to really use them to lose a month's worth of fitness. You're going to short-term Yeah, your heart rates gonna be a little higher when you get back on the bike the first time. But that's that mini-break can do so many good things down the road, it's better to have a week off and hit your next three months of training hard than to not take time off, get two months into that block and just come apart and lose all motivation or desire to train.


Neal  10:20  

And those mini-breaks don't have to be a full week, it could be two or three days at a spot or three or four or five. It doesn't have to be a full week, right? Like it can just be you know, a long weekend, maybe even


Mac  10:32  

Yeah, definitely it's important to balance. A lot of us, really enjoy time on the bike, but we spend most of our time day to day lives off the bike. And so it's important to you know, enjoy that time as well.


Neal  10:43  

From a big picture. You know, if you're planning a year that has 52 weeks, like how much time do you think you're maybe not spending training if even if you have a lot of big goals and you know, say two or three big events in a year, like how many weeks Do you think you might be actually having, you know, offseason plus the kind of mini-break some total?


Mac  11:03  

I mean, like six weeks would be perfectly reasonable.


Neal  11:06  

Wow, that's kind of interesting. All right. Well, let me see. I'm just gonna take a look at certain Olympian's training over the past year. Okay, three-week complete offseason, their post Olympics, that's 10 days, that's a week and a half. So that's four and a half weeks. Let's see, are there any little mini-breaks in here on three days there? Three days here, four days there. And one more three? So that's another 1213 days, that's almost two weeks. So Geez. You know, that's almost six and a half weeks for this athlete that, you know, in the past 52 weeks, they've actually spent completely not training?


Mac  11:49  

Seems like it's worked out well for them.


Neal  11:51  

Yeah, I mean, Olympic medals are kind of hard to hard to come by. They don't just give them away, got to earn them. So work was done. And the rest was also taken.


Mac  12:00  

And so it almost sounds like again with that someone who's super driven to train that hard to train hard enough to get an Olympic medal. Sounds like they needed rest just as hard as their training.


Neal  12:10  

I would definitely say yes, without that rest, the performance is impossible. So make sure that you have a plan and purpose for your rest and recovery. Having a purposeful offseason break that you set aside, as well as a few mini-breaks during the course of your season would definitely be really the way forward


Mac  12:34  

And knowing that it's okay to take these little chunks of time throughout the season, even if that can just help not be as stressed when you have an unplanned interruption you have something unplanned where your training gets interrupted, having that confidence that Okay, I'm going to be backed off for a little bit. This might actually be good for me that in itself can be a really, you know, that's a powerful thing to be comfortable with.


Neal  12:52  

Definitely, the Big C confidence will carry you very far. That's another episode of the knowledge podcast here. Make sure that you value your rest and planet just like you do your training and we'll catch you next time here.