November 27, 2017 - Swim, bike, and run. Work, family, and friends. Vacations, holidays, and social hours. How on earth can we balance all of these things and remain sane? Our next few posts will feature key tips and strategies from our very own AJ Baucco. This week we will discuss the following: -Stress -Sleep -Heart Rate. Each of these factors are within our control, and AJ shares how to stay on top of it.
I've been coaching age group triathletes for 5 years now and have personally worked with well over 100 different athletes in some capacity. If there is one thing that I have noticed, it is that athletes who can maintain a healthy consistency over several years, always perform the closest to their potential. Nearly all age group triathletes are busy athletes. Everyone takes triathlon very seriously and wants to improve, but this is still a hobby and everyone has other responsibilities. So instead of dwelling on how little time you may have for training, let’s figure out better ways to strike a balance and create consistency in training over long periods of time.
Almost all busy triathletes are stressed out at some point during their week. Stress comes in many different forms and it can all negatively affect training. Let's consider physical stress first. How does the physical stress you put on your body affect training? If you spend all morning shoveling snow or pulling weeds out of your back yard, we all know how that will affect you training. It is easy to see how physical stress that is not in the form of swimming, biking, and running can negatively affect your ability to recovery from training. But what about mental stress or emotional stress? Does that affect your ability to recover? Think about the mental or emotional stress that affects you on a daily basis. Certain aspects of normal life like money, work, family commitments, and relationships can create a lot of stress. But does that affect your ability to recover? The answer is ABSOLUTELY. Our body reacts to all forms of stress similarly, whether it be physical stress, mental stress or emotional stress. Our goal as triathletes is to apply as much physical stress as possible in the form of swimming biking and running, while limiting all other forms of stress.
Think about something that really stresses you out. What is affected the most when you are carrying this stress around? Most athletes will say sleep! Too much stress makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, sleep is the number one way we recover from training! Athletes in training should always attempt to sleep 8 or more hours. But it is more common that busy athletes will sleep A LOT less than that. Add some unnecessary stress into the mix, and the little sleep that athletes are getting may not be very restful.
For those athletes that sleep less than 7 hours a night on average, what is the reason? Since sleep is the best way to recover from training, how do we make that a priority? Taking steps toward sleeping better is a part of life that we do have some control over. Many people blame their poor sleep on a variety of factors, but developing better sleeping patterns is on us! Are you watching too much television at night? Maybe you can force yourself to lay in bed earlier, or keep your phone out of reach? Drinking less caffeine, or avoiding caffeine after noon, can also be very helpful. Most athletes won’t argue that more sleep is better for recovery, but establishing consistent sleeping patterns is also very important. Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning can really help regulate your sleep cycles and improve your recovery.
Most athletes want to recover better, and they likely want to sleep better, but how do we make sure that is happening? Just like athletes track and log their training, they should also track and log their sleep! Lucky for us, there is an app for that! The app is called Sleep Cycle and it helps track your sleep and recovery. You set your alarm through the app and it tracks your time in bed. It also tracks the restfulness of your sleep. You can set a wake up time range if you are a bit more flexible and your alarm will only go off when it detects movement from you (indicating that you have come out of a deeper sleep cycle). It also slowly and gently wakes you up with calming music. Once you are awake, you put your finger over the light on your phone and it will take your resting HR.
-Tracking your resting / waking Heart Rates. Why is this so important? Well, why do we track our HRs when we are training? We do that in order to make sure we are doing the right effort. To make sure we are applying the right amount of stress! By tracking your resting HR, you are making sure that you are properly recovering from that stress!
By tracking your HR the moment you wake up, you will get a much better idea how you are recovering and also how your HR is going to act during the day. Keep in mind, everyone is unique and everyone's HRs are different. Some people train at very high HRs and some train at very low HRs. One is not better than the other.
Now, how can tracking your waking HR help you? Here is a personal example, out of shape and in the off season, I was waking up with a HR around 60bpm. As I started to get more fit, my resting HRs slowly come down. In season, it is normal to see a HR anywhere between 40-55bpm. The deeper I get into a training cycle, the lower my resting HR gets. When my HR is closer to 40, it is typically much harder for me to elevate my HR in training. When I am more rested, I see waking HRs closer to 55 and when that happens I notice it is also much easier for me to raise my HR in training. Now, very occasionally I wake up and my HR is like 65 or higher. This is a warning sign! When your HR is irregularly high, it is usually an indicator that you are not recovering well. Maybe you didn't sleep well or sleep long enough or maybe you are carrying too much stress. At this point, it's important to think about whether or not you should take a day off. This would be a good time to shoot a message to your coach and open up a conversation. This doesn't necessarily mean that your workouts will be bad that day, but it's a sign that you should listen to your body more closely and try to improve your short term recovery. It may also mean that you should turn the alarm off and go back to sleep for a couple more hours.
- Owner & Founder of AJ Baucco Coaching
- Professional Triathlete
- Triathlon Coach