What does a Proper Rest Week Looks Like?
Recently, an athlete new to FasCat training plans asked us why he was doing workouts during his rest weeks. The athlete mentioned that in the past, during rest weeks they either rested completely or did very easy zone 1 riding.
On the other hand, other athletes still occasionally insist that they don’t need rest or regeneration weeks, and wonder if they have to take them at all.
So this week, the FasCat coaches teamed up to bring you all a training tip all about rest weeks! In it we will cover:
- What a rest week is and why they are beneficial
- How athletes can get them right and how they can get them wrong
- What a proper rest week looks like
- How to eat during a rest week
What is a rest week and what does a rest week do?
A rest week is where an athlete will do a lower overall workload than they have been doing the previous training block. This does not mean they will have 7 days off with no rides. Typically there is an extra rest day along with lower volume and intensity. Not only is this important physically, but also mentally. By having a lower workload and less training stress the athlete is allowing their body to recover from previous training loads and stress which enables the muscles to regenerate and come back stronger to accommodate previous efforts. Also it will help you be fresher for upcoming training and help you perform your workouts at a higher level since you will be fresh enabling you to get more out of them. (Coach Jake)
What does a rest week look like?
Rest weeks can vary depending on where an athlete is within their training, but the image above is a good example of an athlete that does intermediate volume and is early in their base season. The extra rest is implemented through the early two back to back days totally off and then extra recovery added later on in the week as well to really seal the deal. Since this is early in the athletes training we also added in a “rare” Sunday day off as well. To keep the legs firing and to keep any detraining from occurring we include two short duration targeted sessions in the sweet spot and tempo intervals. Then finally we include one “longer” session to keep the baseline fitness stable so that again the following week the body isn’t in total shock and feeling “flat”. (Coach Isaiah)
The goal of a rest week is to let your body recover from a training load that’s been gradually increasing, to adapt and get faster after all the hard work, and to allow the next training cycle that follows the rest week to be productive and challenging. As Coach Allie likes to say "don't freak out," resting is not going to make you slower or cause you to lose your progress. In fact, if you are FtFP'ing you should crave these weeks of recovery!
Rest weeks can also be a time for mental recuperation: some extra time to relax, catch up on life off the bike, get in some extra sleep, get a massage and spend more time with loved ones.
It’s not, however, supposed to be a week free of any training stress at all. Detraining happens fast, and a week totally free of training shouldn’t be a common occurrence. For that reason, balance is key in a rest week! You should have an extra rest day or two, and you should do less volume and intensity than normal. However, you should still have a reasonably hard workout or two, as the above screenshot shows. (Coach Christian)
What about nutrition during rest weeks?
While your energy needs during a rest week will be lower than during your high volume weeks, athletes don't need to make huge changes to their diet to compensate. Why? Because creating too large of a calorie deficit during rest weeks puts your body under significant stress, which undermines your recovery and training adaptations. In other words, it could totally negate the point of why you are taking a rest week!
That said, athletes can make small changes to ensure they maintain their body composition while not impeding their progress on the bike, such as slightly reducing carb intake on rest days while keeping protein intake the same. Emphasis on slightly reducing carbs, as intake will naturally decrease as a result of lower carb intake during training and in the post workout refueling window. For rest day meals athletes can simply reduce their carb intake by 20-30%, which is as easy as having 3/4 cup of rice instead of 1 cup at a meal.
As mention earlier, protein intake should remain the same as it promotes muscle repair and helps with satiety. A good goal athletes can aim for is 1.2-2g of protein per kg of body weight each day. For an athlete that weighs 165 lb (75kg) that comes out to 90-150g protein per day.
Note: If an athlete is coming off of a big day or block of training, it is not uncommon for them to be in a significant calorie deficit. In that case, athletes will feel hungrier on a rest day than they expect. Those hunger cues should not be ignored as the body needs the extra fuel to recover, aka replenish glycogen stores and promote muscle growth and repair.
But what about athletes who are trying to lose weight?
For athletes who are seeking weight loss, a 500-600 calorie deficit per day (which equals about a pound to pound and a half of weight loss per week) is a safe target. The calorie deficit should come from a reduction and carbs and fat in their diet, not protein. It is important to point out that this calorie deficit will still reduce the bodies ability recover and this is one of the main reasons we don't encourage athletes to lose weight during their race season. (Coach & FasCat's Registered Dietitian, Lacey)
At the end of a rest week, you should feel refreshed, recovered, and motivated to move back into a harder block of training. You can expect to see good power numbers during your first hard workouts after a rest week, and you may overall notice a small bump in your form.
Over a longer timeline, you can expect these rest weeks to guard against overtraining and stagnation, and to allow you to push harder than you would if you never took time to recover.
You’ve probably realized by now, but rest weeks are all about balance! Balancing out all the hard work with some time to recover, and balancing the training volume, intensity and your nutrition in such a way that rest weeks leave you feeling refreshed, snappy and strong, and not de-trained or flat.
As a FasCat athlete, you’ve heard us tell you before to #FtFP. But hopefully now you know a bit more about why you’re taking rest weeks, how they benefit you, and what you can do to get the most out of your rest weeks.
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