Training Question: “When I feel tired and drained, should I skip the workout or just push through it?”
We as triathletes ask a lot out of our bodies. When we demand too much without enough rest and recovery, our bodies talk back to us. But, our bodies also talk back to us when we push our training to new limits and attempt to do more than we have previously done (principle of overload).
So…you show up for your training session and don’t feel quite up to par. You may then wonder if you should go through with the workout as scheduled, or save it for another day. You don’t want to be a wimp, but at the same time, you don’t want to push through it if resting would be more beneficial. What should you do?
To determine whether or not you should do a workout, it is helpful to investigate the following three areas: Sleep, Nutrition, and Goal Setting
- SleepHow much sleep have you gotten in the past five days? Take an inventory and you may find you are in need of a nap. It is no secret that athletes perform better with more sleep.
- Adults usually require seven to nine hours daily, and adolescents and teens need more at nine to ten hours daily.
- Triathletes love the key workouts and the big training days, but if only they had the same enthusiasm for sleep and recovery.
- NutritionHave you eaten A) enough calories, B) the right kinds of calories, and C) at the right times throughout the day? Nutrition is a big reason why people bonk and feel lack of energy for their workouts.
- Enough calories? – Determine your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) so that you can have a starting point for managing caloric intake. If you don’t eat enough, you can forget feeling charged up for a workout.
- The right kinds of calories? – In addition to eating enough total calories, the percentage breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can affect your energy level. Tracking the percentages can be useful as it often points out you are too low in one area. The exact amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats needed depends on what training phase you are in. Just as your annual training plan is periodized, nutrition should be periodized as well.
- At the right times throughout the day? – Three squares a day won’t cut it anymore! Aim for five to six smaller meals throughout the day with pre-workout and post-workout snacks in mind.
The best way to determine your nutritional needs is to log your food intake on a daily basis. It will allow you to see just how much fuel it takes to sustain a hard training week. It will also allow you to see what foods your body responds to positively. If you want to take your nutrition (and performance) to the next level, then you must be willing to log. Do a Google search for online logging sites and find one that you like so that you can begin experimenting with logging food intake.
- Goal Setting Have you clearly defined your goals? Often times when workouts lack purpose, motivation goes out the window. You start missing workouts left and right. Having a plan and executing it will give you confidence and momentum.
- When you write down and have someone hold you accountable to your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. This is one reason why athletes with a coach consistently outperform those without a coach.
- Make sure your commitments are enough to achieve your goals. Having a goal that you cannot devote enough time or money towards to achieve will only result in dissatisfaction and stress. If you have lost the “fun” factor in your training, then it is time to reassess your goals.
Tip: Look beyond the current season. Strive to grasp the big picture. It seems that the narrower the scope of the goal, the more likely the athlete is subject to disappointment or burnout. There is nothing wrong with short-term aggressive goals; they keep some of us highly motivated. But to complete the goal setting repertoire, add a five-year goal and a ten-year goal as well. This way if you happen to fall short of specific goals for the season, you can maintain the perspective that you are making progress towards five-year and ten-year goals. Consistency is the key for long-term success in triathlon.
To know your body well takes a lot of time and practice. Mastering the three areas of sleep, nutrition, and sound goal setting will equip you with the knowledge for more effective discernment when it comes to the original question posed: “When I feel tired and drained, should I skip the workout or just push through it?”
Training Tip Summary: Show up. Go the pool. Lace up and head out the door on your run. Get on the trainer. Start your strength workout or Boot Camp workout. Start warming up and see how you feel 5 to 10 minutes into it. If you feel better and forgot you were tired, then you probably just needed to harden up! If you feel worse and/or that you cannot maintain proper form, then take it to the house with no guilt and focus on rest and recovery.
Article adapted from USA Triathlon