LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:
Scientific Triathlon coach Lachlan Kerin returns to the podcast to discuss how to plan and execute your training so that there is an appropriate balance between training load and fatigue.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- How to balance load and recovery at a macro (season/yearly) and meso (roughly monthly) timescale
- How to balance load and recovery at an acute, micro timescale (roughly weekly)
- Full rest days and easy days - when and how to use each of these
- How to account for intense training days, big volume days, and strength training sessions when planning your load-recovery balance
- Methods for tracking recovery and training readiness
- When (and when not to) and how to adjust training for fatigue
- The impact of age, sex, experience, athletic profile and more on the load-recovery balance equation
- My name is Lachlan Kerin and I am a full time triathlon coach for Scientific Triathlon based in Queensland, Australia.
I coach athletes on all continents of the world, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I also do a bit of racing myself.
Factors affecting recovery
- I would say that sleep is probably among the most important parameter affecting recovery in conjunction with nutrition.
In regards to recovery modalities such as massage, Normatec boots etc. etc., those things could potentially be beneficial but only after you do the basics right first (sleep, nutrition).
- In terms of balancing training and recovery, I think it is essential to have a good balance both in the meso cycle and the micro cycle.
Therefore it is important to really dare to take a bit of off season every year and really make sure to recover properly after a race that you have had a big build up towards.
In terms of a monthly balance, I am not too big of a fan of having three weeks ”on”, one week ”off”, as it tends to lead to that one pushes too hard on the three hard weeks and end up in a bit of an over reaching state, which is non-productive.
Instead, I would advocate a slightly more spread out distribution of the training load.
Weekly load-recovery balance
- From a general perspective I strive to have at least one day that is really easy, and preferably ”off the legs”, which normally from a practical stand point use to be Mondays.
For some athletes, two easier days per week is necessary and then I would often plan it as easy Mondays and Fridays.
- Many people are also very obsessed with having to fit in all kind of sessions every week, like having a long run and a long ride every week, I don’t think that is necessary, which also opens up plenty of other planning options to an athlete’s schedule.
One also doesn’t have to use the standard seven day work week as a schedule, even though it can be really practical.
- Most of the athletes that I coach do have one day every week that is completely free from training.
For more advanced athletes, however, ideally it would be better to have an easier aerobic day or a recovery day as a ”rest” day instead of having one day completely off to ensure a higher level of frequency in the training.
I would also like to point out here, that in my opinion there is no such thing as a ”recovery run”, running will always have some impact on the body so I would never prescribe a pure ”recovery run”.
- In regards to ”easier days”, which are not really recovery days but with the purpose of that they shouldn’t add much more fatigue into the system, I like prescribing medium to slightly longer (maybe 90-120mins) bike rides in higher zone 1 or low zone 2, but they can also be an endurance swim or an easy (and not too long) run.
Basically there are many ways to do these kind of days, but the main thing here is that you’re making sure that these days don’t get too hard.
Recover post hard/long days
- One of the most important factors to consider here is making sure to go into these days well fueled and also be really diligent to fuel during these kind of sessions as well.
Afterwards, one should focus on rehydrating well and once again make sure to refuel properly.
It does take really long time for the body to replenish glycogen stores that have been very depleted, which increases the time to recovery massively.
However, as we are doing a very endurance focused sport, these kind of days where you will be running low on glycogen will happen, but then it is important to plan accordingly the days after to make sure to replenish adequately.
- When it comes to strength training during lighter/recovery days, heavy strength training will yield a certain amount of muscle damage and that won’t help recovery.
However, new knowledge on strength training points towards that one can actually do less total strength work (like less amount of sets) to get the same or similar response.
- I think that subjective scores are among the best and most important parameters to track recovery.
Here also communication comes into play, which obviously is really important, I trust my athletes to tell me if they are feeling very tired or if anything else is going on in their lives that may impact recovery.
Other subjective indicators of a high training load is reduced sex drive, moodiness etc. etc., which I sometimes ask my athletes about.
- In regards to objective score systems, I believe in resting HR and/or HRV.
In terms of HRV, it’s not always the case ”the higher the better”, sometimes my athletes can display very high HRV score during heavy training blocks, which is often a sign of suppressed HR (is also shown in training).
I don’t guide my training solely on HRV, it’s one parameter among others but I tend to reach out to athletes and ask how they feel if their HRV has trended downwards for a few consecutive days.
I often give my athletes ”free autonomy” to back off if they would feel very tired and/or other aspects in life are impacting the training.
- Any sign of ”sickness” (especially below the neck), then it’s a day off without question, if it’s just a ”head cold”, one could potentially do some very light aerobic work, but definitely not going to push anything on such a day.
After having a poor night of sleep one could potentially back off from any kind of intensity (do aerobic to ”steady” work at most).
When it comes to training related fatigue, one must accept that there is going to be some degree of fatigue that you must be able to learn to deal with.
A good rule in these kind of situations is the ”20mins rule”, which means that one does the first 20mins of the session and after that evaluate how you feel, since often one can start to feel much, much better after warm up and/or after the first interval (which can even be split up into two).
Moderating factors of planning training load
- Age is definitely a very important factor that plays into how much training an individual can tolerate (on both sides of the age spectrum).
One must be very careful when it comes to volume and young athletes as they are stil growing, but also consider the factor that when these athletes are ”not training”, then they still may be quite active being out playing etc., which is an important part of their life style and one must not take that away from them, instead rather adjust the training.
When it comes to older athletes, the intensity would be the main thing I would be careful with.
But this is also highly situation dependent, if I would coach a 60 year old athlete who has been training regularly for 40 years, then I would listen very carefully to what he perceives that he can manage and so on.
A less experienced athlete of the same age, I would be more reserved in my training prescription with.
- From a gender perspective, it’s hard to generalize since it’s such a high level of individuality, but one one can still make some very broad generalizations.
Females tend on average have more slow twitch muscle fibrers, which enables them to recover faster from endurance training (same applies for men with a high composition of slow twitch muscle fibrers).
This also means that an athlete with a high degree of slow twitch fibrers won’t be able to ”empty themselves” equally much on very hard anaerobic efforts, which will make it easier for them to recover from such sessions as well.
Mistakes to avoid
- I don’t think people should chase the ”feel of being tired and fatigued”.
- Take easy/recovery days on a regular basis instead of waiting to the taper two weeks prior to the race (nothing magical is going to happen during the taper).
- Finally, sometimes you just need to push through pain, but sharp intense pain should never be neglected, it’s far better to miss one day of training instead of six months recovery from a stress fracture…
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? Social media (Twitter in particular), it has many known pitfalls but there are many great people you can follow there.
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? Accepting that you are going to be wrong sometimes and always try to keep on learning things!
- Who is somebody you look up to or has inspired you? All my athletes, during the pandemic they have really come to inspire me by showing their love for the sport and process of always trying to get better!
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
- Lachie's coaching profile on Scientific Triathlon
- Lachie's coaching profile on Instagram
- Glycogen metabolism and optimising glycogen resynthesis with Bob Murray, PhD | EP#252
- Sleep, recovery, and performance with Shona Halson | EP#52
- Scientific Triathlon coach Lachlan Kerin | EP#192
- Fatigue management with James Teagle and Lachlan Kerin | EP#204
- Base training: off-season do’s and dont’s with James Teagle and Lachlan Kerin | EP#201
- Training ideologies with James Teagle and Lachlan Kerin | EP#212