How Long to Take a Break: Guidelines for Taking Time off
Every week, ithlete will cover general questions on training and recovery, as well as specific best practices with Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
If you have a general question or a specific question on how to use ithlete you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: I am taking a break after in August from competitive track and wanted to get an idea of how to properly recover so I can be ready to go in the fall without any problems or feelings of being burnout. This is my first year in professional track and I am doing the "minor league" circuit in cities I have never heard in Europe. I am use to being done in June and I am going two more months. Any tips?
Answer: Great question. The transition from competition to general preparation phase is often becomes a party tour in different cities. While time for celebration is needed, it’s important to make sure you cover the bases of mental, physical, and medical needs. Athletes usually take time off and then find themselves in a hole medically from not fully rehabilitating an injury and must start the fall in a rehabilitation phase longer and less effective if the problem was fixed earlier. Mentally athletes tend not to prepare all of the personal needs during this time and not take full advantage of freedom and the ability to be anywhere they please, such as seeing family, traveling for pleasure instead of the hotel and airport scenery, and do safe activities that are physically incompatible to track and field.
If you are going to take a break, plan months in advance what you want to do and where you plan to be. Friends, family, and even simple pleasures personally are taken from athletes when training and competing. Choose activities such as seeing sporting events, concerts, or any entertainment that is usually in conflict. If you are injured, complete the rehabilitation and still do light exercise to ensure that symptoms and functional deficits are alleviated, not gone because you are not training . Time after time athletes don’t feel pain and assume things are fine because they are not training at all. Light training is a good indicator of completeness of physiotherapy. Finally it takes a long time to get your body back to normal, and this can range from weeks to months. The body is a very complicated machine and needs time to recover and you should take enough time to regenerate but not too long that detraining becomes severe. Light activity is suggested, as many athletes like working out but not training. Choose activities that are enjoyable and do it for the fun, not physiological benefits or it will backfire. Leave the transition phase rejuvenated and eager to start training again.
Question: A few months from now I am going to need to take 6 weeks off for some nagging strains that need attention. I read the previous question on using HRV and ithlete to manage rehabilitation before competition but I want to use HRV post competition to see if I can get better results with my therapy. The cost of my treatment is not covered by insurance and I can’t afford to have setbacks or additional injury. I am seeing a soft tissue therapist and aquatic exercise professional at an out of state clinic here in the US. Any specific suggestions would be helpful.
Answer: HRV readings can help to see the recoverability of the body, but it’s not a guide on rehabilitation since good readings don’t indicate health to joints and muscle, and poor readings don’t necessarily mean you are not making improvements. The important point to remember is that rehabilitation is similar to training, just scaled down to less demanding activities. Based on your description of aquatic exercise professional, it seems that the combination of therapists is an acceleration program, meaning more is done in a short period of time. HRV can help if used multiple times a day to gage the loading of all of the work being done.
HRV should be tested first thing in the morning to get readiness, and HRV testing can be added in a lying down position for soft tissue therapy after treatment as well. If aquatic exercise is done, you can measure a third time to see how the response was. Finally, right at night HRV can be tested for a forth time to see how sleep is being affected. As the rehabilitation continues, the therapists involved as well as the athlete can decide if the approach is working or if modification is warranted.
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