Whatever distance event you're training for, it's absolutely essential that you include de-load segments in your programme. A de-load is a period of time (typically a week) where the volume of training you undertake is reduced and other aspects should be incorporated in order to encourage recovery before the next block of training. This reduction is commonly included every 4th or 5th week. Here are 4 things to do to ensure you make the most of this 'time out':
Eat enough protein
Protein is a key building block of several components in the body such as muscles, skin and blood. It's also responsible for the repair of tissues, and therefore it's integral that you take on adequate amounts of protein during this week. Research suggests that for the general population, the recommended intake of protein is 0.8g/kg (grams per kilograms of bodyweight) per day. However for endurance athletes, it can be as high as 1.4g/kg per day. In the de-load week, I'd recommend exceeding the second of these values to encourage the re-building and repair of tissues. Please note anything above 2g/kg would be excessive in this instance.
It's tempting on your 'week off' after a tough block of training to order takeaways and crack on with the Terry's chocolate orange! However, you really don't want to start the next part of your programme heavier than at the end of the last block. With less volume of exercise in the de-load week and therefore less energy used, it’s really not advisable to eat whatever you want. Do your best to eat well with good sources of protein, carbs and fat.
Sleep and avoid stress where possible
As sleep is a fundamental part of recovery, be sure to get plenty of it during your de-load. If possible, avoid evening social commitments for the week, or record that late night programme you wanted to watch and catch it at the weekend so that you can be in bed at a good hour. Also, just because you're training less during this week, don't see that as an opportunity to do something else that'll inevitably involve stress. Rather than spending the weekend painting the living room, put your feet up!
Decrease volume significantly
The mistake some runners make is they train for months and increase their volume every week without any breaks as they employ the 'no pain, no gain' mentality. This however, will inevitably lead to overtraining and therefore injury and/or illness. So be sure to lower your mileage significantly every 4-5 weeks. The exact level of drop off is subjective and you'll know yourself how you're feeling and how much rest you require. I'm personally a fan of 50-70% of the previous week's mileage, as this has worked well for me in the past. I'd love to hear what's worked for you, and if you're new to de-loading and have any questions please feel free to get in touch.
By Marc Brown