We have all heard a coach saying give me 110%. While in theory, this would be great, our bodies do NEED rest periods. Within a training week, we must take at least 1 day off. No matter where you are in your training, you need a day off to allow your body to rest. In addition to this, we can’t always go 100% the other 6 days a week. To understand this, we must understand how our bodies recover.
We do not build muscles during workouts; rather we build muscles during recovery. The workouts themselves make micro-tears in our muscles, which later heal stronger. Imagine you are taking a test, and you do not pass. The next time you take the test you will have built up your knowledge and will do better. You do not want the same questions to trip you up a second time. This is how our muscles work. As they tear, they do not want the same weight or load to tear them again, thus they come back stronger. However, if you do not allow for recovery you will only continually tear the muscle until it becomes weaker or injured.
So within a given week, we must have recovery days. If you do a strength-based day you will need 1-2 days of recovery. That doesn’t mean you take these days off. These days could be lighter in intensity, more cardiovascular-based, or even focusing on technique for your sport.
This is the idea behind what is called a microcycle. With this in mind, we also need to take into account macrocycles. This is a time period of 4-8 or so weeks. If we compete every weekend, we can not be at our absolute best in every race. We need to pick 1 race every 4-8 weeks, that we will peak for. This means a series of building weeks, where strength work is at a premium, followed by a speed week of less length but higher intensity, and lastly a recovery week. We must lower the intensity immediately before a peak race. So a week or two before your peak race we need to reduce the intensity and do what is called a taper.
In my current training cycle, I am in my last intense build week, before I begin to taper 1.5 weeks before nationals. My workouts will get shorter and faster with longer recovery until the day before I compete. During these build weeks, I will knowingly sacrifice some top-end speed in order to train with less recovery. These are the hardest weeks in the cycle and the last opportunity I will have to actually get faster before my peak competition!
So the next time your coach asks you to give 110%, take that term with a grain of salt. BUT STILL, GIVE IT YOUR BEST!