When to Take a Midseason Break
I haven’t trained more than a couple of days in the last three weeks. I didn’t quit completely, I just scaled back. I exercised, but not every day. I didn’t go for as long, and I kept everything strictly aerobic, below my Maximum Aerobic Function. I knew it was time for a break, and showing that wisdom can indeed come with age, I actually took that break. How did I know that it was time?
If race times flatten or worsen, it’s a good bet you’re overcooked. I raced the Squaw Mountain Run in basically the same time as last year. I went for one last 8 hour mountain bike race, and only lasted four hours. I was crashing, cramping and suffering in the heat. (although I did solve the mystery of the Tahoe Trail 100 meltdown, wear the hydration pack!) I really wanted to race XTERRA Tahoe at Incline Village, so I cancelled other race plans.
Maffetone believes the objective data from a MAF test is the best, so if you plateau or regress it’s time to carefully evaluate what’s going on. I regressed in both formal and informal MAF tests. Time to back off.
Heart Rate Variability:
HRV should increase as fitness increases. Coinciding with my decline in MAF tests, my HRV never seemed to increase much past where it had been. There would be a big dip after a race from the anaerobic stress, but as I recovered, my HRV would only return to where it had been before, no higher. Kind of like treading water.
I didn’t want to race that last MTB race, but I had already signed up and paid, so I went anyway. Usually I delay registering until the last moment, just to be sure. But I thought it would sell out, so I put it on the calendar when it seemed like a good idea. Our attitude and enthusiasm is a great gauge of our fitness. If we feel flat or over cooked, most likely we are. Pushing on will just make things worse. So I pulled the plug on another race and rested instead, knowing the start of school would increase other kinds of stress dramatically. I ran a little, biked a little, and took days off. I wanted to be ready for Tahoe.
How to Know When to Jump Back In:
When you feel like it! When Tahoe came around, my motivation was mostly back. My extra rest brought back my enthusiasm, and I had a fun race, even though it was harder than I expected. With some extra recovery days after the race, I feel excited to train again for my next big goal, a marathon in December. That goal motivated me to take my break now, rather than burn out too late. My nutrition, which had also suffered as I gave into temptations, is now back on track as well.
My HRV has hit all time highs, both for a single day and average. My informal MAF test today showed several minutes of improvement. I now have motivation and a positive attitude toward my new goal. I’m cutting way back on racing and doing a run focus from now until the marathon. I feel confident that this time I won’t burn out early, instead I’ll make it all the way to my December vacation with increasing fitness.
Do you take breaks during your season? How do you when to stop and when to start back up?