recover with couch potatoes

After logging my biggest week of Ironman training ever last week, I decided to kick-start a recovery phase with an ice bath, er, swim, in the 58-degree ocean, and a massage session with a new therapist.

If ever I associated the word “massage” with relaxing, that farce came to an end on David Claing’s table tonight. David, a former therapist for the New York Islanders and US national hockey team, had a private practice in Key West before moving here a month ago to pursue the California dream.

“You look like a Jen!” came the warm welcome upon my arrival. David practices out of La Jolla Fit, in a tiny back room sparsely decorated with photos of him and his wife, hockey teams he’s worked on, a candle and a massage table. It’s a minimalist set up that mirrors his style, and David cuts right to the chase.

massage therapy triathlon

I’ve been in pain on other’s tables before, but this was a whole new experience. And David makes no apolgies. To my every attempted complaint (“ohhhh, ouch, ahhh! that’s not good,” “wow, I’ve never felt that before,” and at the end “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck”), the good-humored David simply responds, “Thanks! Thank you so much for the compliments!” He’s kind and firm, professional and quirky. And he’s not for the faint of heart. I left his studio after an hour and floated back to my car feeling like I’d just been beaten up in a back alley. I avoided strangers’ eyes. Do you know what I’ve just been through?

Ah, rest. Recovery. That digging out of dirt and grime that accumulates in our muscles, and which we are far too gentle on ourselves to roll out fully. David calls them “muscle zits” and “puss.” And his hands don’t lie. Every tough spot he identified made perfect sense—my neck and upper back from my new bike position. My hamstrings from week after week of high running mileage. Without intending to, he challenged me to thank my body for all it allows me to do, and to take proper care of it with the tools at my disposal—whether or not that includes him beyond today.

rest quote ashleigh brilliant

For reasons borrowing from both obsession and joy, I’ve been averaging 17-20 hour training weeks since early December. Until a wise friend encouraged me to build the rest of my Ironman South Africa plan around rest. And why not? Over the past year, I’ve followed a coaching philosophy that values training consistency over periodization. Basically, the more days of training you can stack together successfully, the better your progress and performance. Recovery in this model happens between sessions, or within sessions themselves.

Rest periods are common in the more traditional periodization models we’ve all heard of. (Base, build, peak, etc.) In this framework, as far as I understand it, rest gets its own structured block(s). The idea here is that a decrease in volume allows the body to “absorb” the work and get stronger, similar to the universally-revered pre-race taper.

24 hour triathlon training week

I love it, but I’m ready to scale back.

I’m sure both methods have their place—the former model worked for me last year in Cabos. But I’m feeling strong and fit, and rest isn’t going to sabotage my race. Why not experiment? And, I’m genuinely tired—so I’ve heard, “if you’re not coming to a point after 2 – 4 hard weeks of training where you’re absolutely craving rest, there’s a good chance you’re not training hard enough.” Well then.

Below are a few tidbits of wisdom I’ve gathered for such a period, and a few of the ways I plan on spending my extra 12-14 hours of time.

Rest Week Wisdom

– “Better to do too little training than too much. You’re much better off being slightly undertrained but enthusiastic than overtrained and lethargic.” – Joe Friel
– “Performance = stress + rest.”
– “Let yourself off the hook.”
– “Rest is sweet to those who labor.” – Plutarch
– “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Gen 2:3)
– “Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other – activity in rest and rest in activity – is the ultimate freedom.” (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

Rest Week Ideas

-Schedule a massage (at whatever level of pain you can tolerate!)
-Plan a girls/guys/date night
-Buy yourself some new clothes (your friends are sick of seeing you in compression tights)
-Get a hair cut
-Start that book you’ve been wanting to read
-Hang out with your triathlon team
-Memorize an easy meal to make for when training ramps up again
-Clean out and wash your workout bag(s) and gear
-Get your bike tuned up
-Move it (easy): Swim in the open water. Hike, do yoga, or attend one of those “weird” classes with a gym-rat friend.
-Call your mom/best friend/grandma
-Keep your workouts to once a day, and of short/intense duration to keep your muscles fresh but without adding excess fatigue.

P.S. The title of this blog is from a friend who tweeted it as a response to my Ironman article promotion: “Solid @IronmanTri piece from my girl @thats_my_line. “Run with runners, ride with cyclists and swim with swimmers.” (He’s a wise one.)

*Feature photo by

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