I like the term 'unloading'. Somehow it sounds better to me than 'resting' or 'recovering'... both of which maybe somehow imply weakness (only in my own head?)... Or maybe not weakness but you know, the things you have to 'recover' from are typically not good things... Recovering Alcoholic comes to mind... but 'unloading' somehow sounds smarter or more scientific or something?? For whatever that's worth.
So it's true that while I understand the concept of resting, I myself am not a huge fan of actually doing it. BUT, when I change up the semantics and think of what I'm doing as unloading, well, it all becomes perfectly acceptable. Because, you see, before you can unload, you have to have something to unload from... and I just spent the last several weeks loading up. My goal was to push myself right to the edge, but not over the edge, stay there and play for a little while, then back off a bit... So this is tricky of course because how do you know when you're at the edge?
Maybe it's different for you, but for me, here's how I know I'm nearing time to unload...
1. I just don't want to train. Our brains are super cool in that they are awesome indicators of when we're nearing the edge. I almost ALWAYS would rather be training... so when I start having thoughts like I don't want to do this... well, that's a sign that it's almost time to unload. I say almost because I think that part of the training process is to teach our brains that we are capable of doing more than they think we can... I think our brains give us fatigue signals pretty well in advance of when we're truly at the edge, so pushing through some of that is good and necessary if we want to push the edge out further for next time. I started feeling like I didn't want to train anymore on Friday... felt it again starting Saturday... interestingly pushed right through it both times and my brain got on board for Sunday and it didn't even try to get in my way. That sort of surprised me but I found it pretty cool. This morning though, there was absolutely nothing in me that wanted to go to the pool. So I didn't go. I'm unloading now. :)
2. My numbers are off. Could be trending slower and slower pace in the pool or on the run... and now I can also see when I just am not able to put out power on the bike which is really a clear objective sign that I've never had the opportunity to work around in the past. So say, for example, that I was headed out to do some threshold intervals on the bike... and I know what power I should be able to push because I've done it before... but I get out there and just can't even come close to hitting the numbers I was supposed to hit. Maybe it's a one off day and I don't worry about those too much but when you start to see trends going in the wrong direction, well, it's time to unload. When your pace in the pool slows over the course of a week and you don't want to train anymore and then you try to ride and your power numbers suck, well, these are the trends that add up to show us the big picture... It's like rocket science, isn't it? ;)
3. Low and sluggish heart rate. People think that heart rate training is always about easing up and going slower than you want to go... but it's not! Heart rate data is super valuable and paying attention and knowing what yours should be on a normal day is good stuff. So again I'll use the bike as an example: when I'm out riding and see my HR is 134, well, that's pretty low for me. Maybe not a problem if I'm going really easy but if I try to go hard and it only jumps up to 138, well, that's a sign. I can ride for extended periods of time with my HR at 180+ so if I'm out there and 140 feels hard and it won't jump past 148 even when I'm trying to sprint up a hill, that's about as reliable as the low power data I was talking about above in indicating you're at your current training limit and it's time to unload. When I'm fit and fresh, I can ride pretty strongly at HR140, but I also have the ability to pretty quickly jump up to HR 175+ should I want to. When I'm not fresh I cannot get my HR up that high no matter how hard I try.
So anyway, I had a great build and got myself right where I wanted and now I'm going to back off for a few days and let my body fix itself a bit. I've been through this process a couple times already this winter/spring and I'm actually pretty stoked about it because I know I have some *super* workouts coming my way after I ease up and unload for a few days. It only takes me maybe 3-4 days and then I'm on FIRE for another couple of weeks... or however long it takes me to LOAD UP again. ;)