Only 2 weeks before I had the race of my life at IM Arizona, but now I found myself running slow and feeling lousy. It was my first day back to training after doing no biking or running for 2 weeks after IMAZ. Here’s what to do when, like me, you’re ready to start into your new season after a break.
1. Have Amnesia.
Forget all about your speed and power from the end of last season– you’re officially starting over! Between tapering and recovering you can quickly get somewhat “out of shape.”
Looking at my performance manager chart y0u can see that my CTL (or chronic training load) dropped from a pre Ironman Arizona peak of 137 to below 90 (and still dropping!) Chronic training load (CTL) is a measure of your long term training load and is generally used a rough measure of your current “fitness.” So I’ve lost about 35% of my peak fitness! It would over 3 months of aggressive ramping up to get back to my peak.
2. Train By Heart Rate and Feel, Not Pace and Power.
Your heart rate zones and your perceived exertion will be much more reliable (and less depressing) than watching your power or speed at first. In my example, my run pace versus effort and heart rate was a full minute per mile slower when I started back into running. My bike power was at least 10% lower and my heart rate would jump up more more easily and take a very long time to come down. Your power and pace will be lower than before and will fluctuate quite a bit in the beginning (hopefully improving quickly), whereas your heart rate zones stay fairly stable. Some athletes might even want to avoid looking at pace or power during this time if they can’t stand the idea of seeing certain numbers. (Some people I coach can’t bear the though of seeing a “9″ at the beginning of their run pace or a “1″ as the first digit on their power meter.)
3. Take 6 Weeks To Set a Baseline Before Starting Any Kind of “Ramp Up”
In addition to losing your overall fitness base and getting slower, after a break your muscles and connective tissue can get weak and much more easily injured. Your cardiovascular system and your muscles might bounce back to decent levels relatively quickly, but your connective tissue takes longer to toughen up.
Do about 6 weeks of gentle preparation and conditioning training to get your body to ramp up. During this time, training should be a little “too easy.” Be especially careful with running, as it’s very easy to injure yourself during this time. You might consider doing a portion of your running on grass, soft trails or on the treadmill.
It also will take about 6 weeks to for your CTL to stabilize and stop reflecting most of the zeros from your post race break. Once you’ve established a 6 week base line, you’ll be able to plan a gradual ramp up from your current fitness level.
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