Ultra runner and Suunto athlete Ryan Sandes says endurance athletes are usually a headstrong, dogged bunch. He’s right. That means it’s even more important they maintain a balanced training load to avoid getting “overcooked”.
Ryan Sandes caught glandular fever at the end of 2014 and struggled to recover over the next year. He did what he always did: kept training and kept racing. Until it got to the point he knew he needed to back off and give his body time to recover.
Image © Craig Kolesky
“Ultra runners and endurance athletes are used to grinding away and pushing pretty hard, and sometimes your feelings get skewed and you get used to everything feeling hard,” says the 34-year-old South African. “You don’t see you’re in a hole and that it shouldn't always feel like that.”
Have a training plan
You always start with a plan – or else we couldn’t call it training. Setting goals for time, volume or pace is totally necessary – after all, you need practice to get better, and benchmarks to measure buy. “It’s really important to have a training plan, some form of structure with the key training elements.”
Be flexible with your training
Equally important is to understand that the plan may change according to how your sessions go or how you’re feeling. It might be too much and you might have to scale it down,” Ryan says. “You need to be flexible. Because a lot of endurance athletes are quite headstrong so they’ll set themselves a goal, like running 15 hours every week for three months for example, and if they don’t do it they feel like they’re slacking, even if their bodies aren't feeling up to it and they should back off to let themselves recover. That kind of flexibility is important.”
Track how your training is going
New, powerful progress tools were just recently introduced to Suunto Movescount. The service automatically analyses seven different endurance sports and as the best sections from each run, ride or swim has been identified, Movescount’s progress trend tool provides the view on how the performance has changed over a longer period of time.
Score your training sessions
Feeling is a valuable metric when analysing your training. Ryan scores his training sessions for how he’s feeling and how hard they are so he can gauge how his training is progressing. Is it subjective? Well, somewhat. But that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.
After a workout you can add your feeling to that specific Move in Movescount and see a trend for example in your monthly summary. The feeling can be added on the watch when saving the Move with a Suunto Spartan Ultra or Sport, with the Suunto Movescount App or in movescount.com.
Prioritise recovery after big weeks
“As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve learned that after weeks when I’ve got a high load and a lot of training, I need to make sure that I put a big emphasis on recovery. If I’m doing a really big week, then I know I mustn’t do lots of other things like meeting up with people and being constantly on the go. After big runs I focus on recovery and staying off my feet.”
Monitoring your training load trend is important to ensure you train at an optimal level towards your goal and avoid overloading. To understand how much you are pushing your body, Suunto Movescount tracks the recovery time from each of your exercises to illustrate your load over time with a trend graph. Ideally the load trend should vary, allowing your body to rest between high intensity exercises.
Get a second opinion
There’s many reasons a coach is valuable – but most importantly is that they can sometimes see you better than you see yourself. “Your training can go through a period of not feeling that good and it takes an external person to be able to see that you’ve been feeling down for the last four or five days so something isn’t right. Take two days off and freshen up or you'll cook yourself if you keep going. A coach helps you to stay objective.”
Use Suunto’s recovery features
One of the best things about your Suunto watch? It not only tracks your training – it helps you recover, too. Here’s what Ryan has to say about a few of the features.
Suggested recovery time
“If my Suunto watch says I need 48 hours to recover I know I’ve done a big session. I might not always take the 48 hours to recover, but it tells me I should take it easier. Maybe the next run will be easy or I might go hiking for an active recovery.”
Heart rate monitor
“When I use a heart rate monitor I look at the average heart rate just to see the overall stress of the training session on my system so I get a gauge of the load. I generally prefer keeping things to feel, but using a heart rate monitor sometimes is definitely helpful. It’s good to use these tools to double check things.”
“At one stage when I had glandular fever last year I used Suunto’s Sleep app on my Ambit3, which allows me to monitor the variance of your resting heart rate, to make sure I wasn’t pushing my body too hard. Using this is really useful when you’re doing a big block of training because it allows you to see when you’re starting to overcook things.”
Ambit3's recovery features
To help you balance your training Suunto Ambit3 also has a recovery test. It indicates the amount of stress on your autonomic nervous system. The less stress you have, the more recovered you are. Knowing your state of recovery helps you optimize your training and avoid over training or injury. You can check your recovery status with a quick recovery test or sleep recovery test, powered by Firstbeat.
Main image © Craig Kolesky