As promissed, here are the dirty details of how I survived the event.
I made sure to have a full week of tapering – just one hard workout the week before and one mild one to stay loose. The swim was what I was most nervous for because I know the run would just be managing the pain and I’d be almost done so I was counting on those built up endorphins and adrenaline to see that part through. The swim though… I had no idea.
It also was the first time I swam with other people in my lane, and I was instructed to stay on the right side near the lane separators; already throwing variation into the mix. Within a few seconds I was on-top of another swimmer and I had to “go around” them forcing me to swim faster than I wanted to or I would not be able to keep a steady pace as I was used to in practice. For the next 4 lengths/2 laps I continuously had people in my way. The problem was that even though I would pass them and get to the end first, those 50 meters wiped me out every time, and I had to wait so long to be able to “go again” that they would get to the end and start out again before I did. After 2 laps of that, I started leaving before they made it to the end, and I guess that is how I took my average time of 40 minutes to an average of 31 to complete those 700 meters. Certainly not a good time for a good swimmer, but it beat my best by at least 5 minutes, and I was just happy to get out of the water.
Now came my event. I was super psyched to get on my bike, and I was ‘flyin” for me. There was a circuit involving a hill that you would climb 4 times. Every time I hit the climb, I pounded it all the way to the top, typically passing everyone I could see. In practice when I rode this route, I was in Zone 2 after the swim for the first lap, then Zone 3 on the second lap, and then Zone 4 after that. I felt like that could give me a pretty good time without crushing my energy. Well, my adrenaline and enthusiasm got the best of me and I hit Zone 5 right out of the gate on the first lap. I spent 26 minutes in Zone 5 and 14 in Zone 4 with zero in Zones 1, 2 and 3. My times would confirm I was in the top 3rd of all bike times for all age categories. My secret weapon was my music mix. I spent several days picking the most motivating and super charged music that kept me pushing the entire time.
Ruffling Club Style
So now was time for the run (or “ruffle” in my case – that’s the combination of running and shuffling). Here is where “fate” and other unexplainable things come in. Just as I’m crossing the bike course (the only place runners cross after their ride to start the run), Cathy is coming up the hill on her last bike lap at the precise same time and location. What’s the mathematical probability of that one!?!
With super good vibes I head into the woods, with my music still providing motivation and energy, I felt like I might even have a chance of beating my girlfriend. This was not ever mentioned out loud, but how could I not think about it. I know she is an experienced runner with multiple full marathons under her belt, and well… I figured she would catch me on the run, but now that I was in front, the old “racer mentality” kicked in and I was on a mission to not let her catch me!
In training sessions I could only ruffle for 1 to 2 miles before the pain was too great to continue. My hips might be made of steel now, but many of the muscles around them are a combination of scar tissue and whatever else causes pain when I have impact on them. My music would get me through again because I started dancing through the woods just to keep moving forward and distract me from the pain. The last mile was excruciating, and as I emerged from the woods to the final 300 feet or so before the finish line, my daughter was there ready to run the last bit with me and cheer me on. When she told me to “GO, GO – I’ll run with you!” I told her I could hardly walk let alone run, and then it happened: a guy with my same age written on his calf passed me with the finish line just in the distance. “Oh NO!” I thought – “I’ve not put up with this pain for the last 40 minutes to be last in my age class”. So I did what any crazy competitive person would do – I sprinted to the line, beating the guy who would in the end, be the last one in our age group.
My legs were shaking at the finish line and I collapsed to the ground for about 3 minutes before I could even stand up. This is indeed why I can not do another triathlon. Not sure what toll this one took on my artificial hips, but I wanted to do at least one in my life – mission accomplished, one more thing I can take off my bucket list – and oh yeah, I beat my girlfriend by 6 min. I have bragging rights until she can beat my times, but I promised to help her train to do it. I have no doubt she will kick my ass before she’s done doing triathlons.
I’m sorry, but fake news seems so popular now, I thought I’d try my hand at it LOL. Actually, I am a double hip replacement, and I did do my first triathlon, and I wasn’t last in the race or my age group. So, perhaps that’s what makes fake news so believable, there are elements of truth mixed with “other stuff”. So I would not say I “rocked it”, but I did much better than I thought I would.
I’ve not blogged about my journey for these last 3 months as I needed a break from blogging after almost 3 years of writing for Cycling Fusion and the Post Gazette, a few months off seemed reasonable. So here is my summary of what I thought was not attainable once I got my first hip replacement (right hip). That was about 20 years ago. Oh yeah, then I got my second (left hip) replaced about 10 years ago, and I was glad I had no interest in triathlons since it was now certainly out of the question.
Well, then I met my crazy girlfriend that, despite being the same age as me, still acts like she is 30 years younger and continues to push me to do the same. Clearly swimming was not going to pose a health risk, but I was never taught the right way to swim or do laps. My first 3 swim practices I looked more like I was drowning than swimming (my coach’s words not mine). I eventually, after multiple lessons, learned how to breath and do the correct freehand stroke, but that didn’t change the fact that I felt like I needed a defibrillator at the end of each pool length – a mere 19 meters. How in the world would I swim a 50 meter length 14 times at the start of this triple endurance event?!?
I knew it would get better though, and yes I improved to the point where I could go out and back before feeling exhausted and having to stand and catch my breath at the end of the pool for 15 to 20 seconds. Still, that was only 40 meters – best I could do and I would have to just “deal with it” when the event day came and forced me to swim 50 at a pop.
When I tried to “train” for the run, it was everything from comical to very sad. I could not run more than an 8th of a mile before my hips would be in excruciating pain. So I tried to run just an 8 count of steps/pacing and then walk some. That didn’t work very well either. Then it hit me. I can play 2 to 3 hrs of tennis without hip pain. Why and how did I do that?!? It’s because in the back court you are taking side to side shuffle steps, not running per se except when approaching the net, and that was just a few steps. So, I found a pattern of running forward, and then shuffling sideways, going forward, and then shuffling the other way (first time right leg first, the second time left leg first). I called it “ruffling”.
Yes, people did look at me strangely, as Cathy and I did some group workouts with others training for the same event where we would ride our bikes for so long then get off and run. Surprisingly, I could do about 13 minute miles on the first mile, then the second one would increase way up to 18 and I could never get past mile two as I could not even walk after that. So like the swim, on the event day, I would just have to deal with that last mile somehow.
The day before the event, we went to yoga at the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden to keep our taper and mellow mindset on track. Afterwards we went to get our race packets and get “painted”. Yes, we got numbers written on our legs and arms – making my girlfriend declare “now we are real athletes” LOL. Tru dat.
On my next blog post, I’ll give you all the dirty details of how we survived the event.
Every year I help friends, family or often indoor cycling students get into outdoor riding in one way or another. It’s why I never sell my old bikes, as they become perfect loaners for newbies trying to see if they like it enough to invest in their own 2 wheels. With the newly formed Premier Bicycle Club, I now have a great partner to provide safe riding and new riding buddies along the way.
While you don’t need to join a riding club to enjoy outdoor riding, there are plenty of reasons to do so. For just twenty bucks, members enjoy a ton of benefits to help them learn more about riding, experience different areas of great riding (from extensive rails to trails to quiet country roads) and meet new people to ride with along the way. This new club also specifically has a mission to reach out to women riders (who generally make up less than 30% of road riders) as well as those who are just getting started. This removes a lot of the self consciousness or even intimidation that can accompany the idea of getting into something that seems so different than what we remember it as a kid.
Knowing many of the founders of this club, I couldn’t think of a better group of men and women to help lead and guide new riders to a place of passion and joy for this fantastic sport. In a recent Facebook post, the president of the club Bob Vano said:
“…this is what the Premier Bicycle Club is all about....a supportive group with common goals that helps others achieve greater goals than they thought they could. This club is made up of the best people Western PA can deliver! We offer the best opportunity for cyclists of all levels to go after what they want. And we respect each other's abilities at the same time. We ride together.....and we grow together too. A shout out to Gene Nacey who along with his company, Cycling Fusion, has helped me become more knowledgeable about training and cycling in general. Thanks Gino!”
There is so much to like about this activity, from the healthy lifestyle of fitness and stress relief, to the expanding opportunities of learning and travel, cycling can literally change your life if you let it. Those of us who have experienced this are often eager to share it with others. Outside of an initial investment in a decent bike, it is also an extremely inexpensive sport/hobby to pursue.
So, if you have been a long time indoor (think “Spinning®”) participant, or perhaps someone who has done a lot of the trails but would like to ride a charity event or some quiet country roads, check out the Premier Bicycle Club!
Did I mention you can’t really train for unpredictable weather? Did I mention that you can’t really predict equipment issues that may result in last minute bike rentals? Did I mention that it is almost impossible to train for 16 weeks without getting sick or knocked off your plan for at least a week or two?
Well, all of thee things happened to our Cycling Fusion group before the big ride up Mount Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. My girlfriend got incredibly sick with a violent cough for more than 3 weeks that resulted in 3 weeks of no training and 1 week of partial training, and missing 1 of the only 2 outside prep rides. Her sister who was working the same training plan with us discovered a broken part of her bike just days before departure and had to rent a bike in Maui. Finally, one of our other riders who arrived on the island a few days early broke their derailleur as they rode a warm-up ride before the big event. That’s just life…no predicting or preparing for it.
All of that talk of confidence and preparedness began to wane in strength as each situation occurred closer and closer to the day of the big ride. Nevertheless, everyone knew that we had come too far to turn back, and that we would press on the best we could. I had anticipated a 5 – 5.5 hr ride for the group as a whole, but then on the day of the ride, the last 4 to 5 miles had cold, windy rain that pounded us all the way to the summit.
The result was that we had to stop more often (averaging every 45 min instead of every 90 min) to change clothes, get fuel and regroup. I knew that the final half mile was very steep and would be a shock to the system for most, so we also had to “save something” for the very end. We left while it was still dark, so we could start right at sunrise. We were about 30 minutes late, but close enough that we chased the sun for the first 2+ hours.
Once we got about a third of the way up the mountain, I “released” the stronger riders to find their own rhythm and climb at their own pace, since I had forced a collective slow warm-up in the initial stages. Our fastest rider was able to arrive in just under 5 hours and was rewarded with virtually no rain to battle. The rest of us were not so strong and pushing a sub 5 hr tme would have put many at their limit.
Instead I asked multiple times where their Heart Zones® were of the two gals that trained with me so I could gauge my pace to keep them out of Zone 4. I knew if I kept them out of Zone 4, they would have enough to finish regardless of how awful the weather or how tired they were. The only down side of this approach, is that it lengthened the ride to a little over 6 hrs for us and the extra saddle time was not welcome in that wind and rain.
The bottom line though is that everyone made it – even with a little walking of the bikes at the end. It was more psychological than physical but when you are in the moment, it’s hard to step outside yourself and tell yourself you can push through more pain after you’ve been in the saddle for 6+ hrs. In the end, there was victory in the accomplishment, and a lesson learned that they must learn to embrace the pain when they know it will not result in a permanent injury. There is no better result than reaching your goal, and learning more about how to get stronger for the next time. One more bucket list item crossed off.
If you are training for any significant event – a long ride, a race, or a multi-day riding vacation, the training plan should generally be a minimum of 8 weeks up to a maximum of a year or more depending on the event you are training for. Regardless of the length of time, or the nature of the event, you must be able to answer the question “Is my training working” along the way, and “Am I ready” as you near the end of the plan.
I’ve written a post about how to check if the training is working, (see blog post "How Do I Know My Training Is Working") . This post takes that thought to the next level and seeks to know if we are “done”. It’s important to go into the event with confidence or you can very easily sabotage yourself. Nothing is so powerful as the mind, in good and bad ways, and so it is important to have a peace about what you’ve done and how ready you are.
This can be particularly difficult when training during the winter, predominantly inside (as most followers of our Cycling Fusion plans do) for an outside event in the spring. This was exactly the case with our training plan for Mount Haleakala on Maui in Hawaii. Since we were slated to climb that the last week in April, we were subject to very few outdoor rides in the Spring. To climb more than 8,000 feet (it’s 10,000 if you go from ocean to summit) based on training predominately indoors is very risky without the right training plan.
Fortunately we were able to do 2 outdoor rides the 2 weeks prior to departure in an effort to assess just how far our fitness had come and how well our heart would perform when we had no ability to “turn the resistance down” on the hills outdoors. Specifically I looked for one thing with my students (and myself) as we were riding; how often did their heart rates spike in Zone 5 and how much time did they spend in Zone 4. These are the zones that will very rapidly contribute to your cumulative fatigue overall and muscularly. We want to be able to work hard in those zones when we need to (steep climbs, or bursts of speed), but we want to always be efficient enough to climb in the lower zones to be able to last a 26+ mile climb of 8,500 to 10,000 feet of climbing.
Our two rides outside did indeed confirm this as we reviewed the Cycling Fusion Ride Buddy Buckets app on our iPhones, and there was a cautious optimism built in my students, and a great deal of confidence from their coach (yours truly) for each one of them as I know how they rode in years prior to the training and I could see how much stronger they were climbing with much lower heart rates and stress on the body.
THIS is how I knew they were ready, and the same result was achieved in my rides with them, and since we all used the same training plan, I knew beyond a doubt that the right type and right amount of work had been done.
I stepped off my crazy training plan on Friday to drive out to Ohio to visit The Million Mile Man, Danny Chew. Ever since I met Danny about 6 years ago as Cycling Fusion asked permission to film The Dirty Dozen, I have been inspired by him. From winning RAAM twice, to his goal of riding a million miles in his lifetime, to the crazy 24 hour Cathedral of Learning step climbing, I just couldn’t imagine having goals that big. In fact, after I finished riding the dirty dozen in our camera car the first year we filmed it, I was even more convinced that I could not handle those hills.
One year later, it was the very fact that I did not think I could do it that made it feel like a “Danny goal”. I had to train for 3 of the hardest months in my life so that I could be the first double hip replacement to finish. That all happened, because Danny’s goals showed me that mine were always within my comfort zone, and I would never know what I am capable of until I start picking goals outside of it.
Fast forward to last September, and Danny’s world is turned upside down. From the man with arguably the strongest legs in Pittsburgh and beyond, to a man who can no longer feel his body from his chest down. As Danny put it to me on Friday, he went “From the ceiling to the floor in the blink of an eye”. Now Danny’s mission is to build his upper body to be as strong as his lower body, and this challenge alone doesn’t even touch the magnitude of what is before him. He is learning life all over again. He is starting his “second half” by starting over from head to toe. The enormity of just learning to live day to day without the bottom half of your body would put most of us in a hopeless tail spin…. But not Danny.
On Friday I watched him work out harder with a personal trainer (Jerry Guerriero, from Central Wellness) than I have ever done when I had my trainer a few years ago. I watched him follow that up with a 3 mile wheelchair run (timed with my stop watch of course) as he tried to beat his best time even after that excruciating workout. I watched him look at his life, and how “upside down” it is right now, and find one good thing after another that can provide hope and motivation for his day to day struggles.
Believe me, Danny is not feeling like life is butterflies and rainbows right now. He is painfully aware of both how much his life has changed, as well as how hard each day is now and going forward. The “good news” is though, he chooses not to make that his focus. He knows that he can not only create goals for himself to crush (something he continues to excel at), but he can continue to inspire others and in many cases more than he has done in the past. It has already happened multiple times since his accident. His sphere of influence now is wider than ever.
I left my visit feeling like my life doesn’t shine a candle to Danny Chew… a familiar feeling from all the years I’ve known him. Yet, just like in years past, I left feeling inspired to become the best version of myself I can be. Whatever I think is that “best version” is, there is probably one level better if I can never give up and remember to think like Danny Chew. Thanks Danny… you’ve done it again.
The easy answer to knowing if what your doing is actually working is if you “see” results. This is the age old “before and after” pictures that prove what you are doing has indeed made a difference. By the way, special thanks to Dr. Bob Vano, one of our best training plan advocates for his before and after pictures. However, this really only applies to weight loss. Looking like a leaner, fitter you is fantastic, unless you still can’t climb that hill or run that half marathon you’ve been wanting to.
For those who are already “OK” with how they look, and do not have a distinct weight loss goal, the results are not so easily seen, but instead felt and/or measured. As we move into the 11th week of our 16 week training program, there should already be at least 1 fitness or performance boost that can be measured and felt by everyone who has stayed on plan. That of course goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. Just having a Cycling Fusion training plan does not an athlete make – you must follow the plan week after week.
So then, if weight loss and visual inspection is not the main goal (even though everyone typically hopes that happens anyway), then how do we know that we are not wasting our time, spinning or running our legs off with no discernable benefit. There are two basic results of a fitness improvement, and each can be objectively confirmed.
Whether running or cycling, if your training plan works, you will be able to go faster at the same effort levels. To confirm that this has happened, it is best to measure this outside. While we do a lot of before and after assessments indoors on power bikes, the bikes can vary so much that the results can always be a bit suspect. Riding or running outside on a familiar route though will always prove a reliable before and after approach. This however, assumes that you have paid attention to my “preaching” these last 8 years or so about the importance of data collection. You will want to run or ride a familiar route and see if your times are shorter. Even if you are not a data geek like me, and don’t have written records, you should be able to select one of the most common routes and “just know” about how much time it normally takes you.
The trick is however, knowing how hard you normally have ridden or ran it in the past. This again is where the heart monitor (not the power meter) comes into play. That device is your window to how hard you are truly working, without the need to look at the amount you are sweating or how good a “pain face” you’ve put on. Devoid of average heart rate figures again, you still should be able to subjectively confirm if it felt harder, easier or about the same effort. If your times are better, your training has worked.
My favorite saying since I have retired from racing has been this: “When you get more fit, you get to choose if you go faster, or suffer less”. These days I like to suffer less. So instead of trying to beat my times on familiar routes, I am more interested in climbing those hills that kick my arse and feel like I wasn’t so beat down. I want to ride more comfortably for longer periods without the lingering fatigue. I want to look forward to those climbs that used to make me anxious and feel week, and climb them with confidence and relative ease. Yes, those feelings are all possible as I get stronger – when my training has worked.
So if you’ve taken this journey with us, and you too are more than halfway through your training, why not find the next good (or at least fair) weather opportunity to confirm that all this time and effort has not been for naught. Even though you know this plan should be working, nothing is more motivating than seeing and feeling it first hand. As we continue to train these final 5 weeks, believe me, you will want all the motivation you can get.
I’m not going to make excuses, but I am determined to learn from my mistakes. At first I thought I just had my worst training plan for the week ever. Due to travel over the weekend, I had to get 1500 training load points in 4 days. That translated to just a little less than 10 hours of riding indoors (or a combination indoors and out) in 4 days – of which none were weekend days.
To add to the “fun” 40 minutes of that needed to be in Zone 5; a particularly hard place to be indoors at this point in the training. In writing this it sounds so ridiculous – not smart to try and cram all that in on 4 weekdays. I was lucky enough to have the first 2 days outdoors, where I purposely selected some of the steepest hills near my house (not hard to find in Pittsburgh) and proceeded to climb them in the big ring to push my power, speed and heart rate to those max levels.
Perhaps though, that was my undoing, because the hurt that put on my legs never left for the rest of the week. I got only 75 minutes of riding in on the first of 4 days, which is normally a day off the bike for me, because my “long day” I get 4 hours on the bike came next. I went into day 3 with 5.25 hrs under my belt and screaming legs. I rode another two and a half hours on day 3 and crawled into bed.
My final day I needed just 2 more hours, but 20 minutes were still needed in Zone 5 with legs that have been aching for 3 straight days now. I was determined to do it, so much though that I foolishly took 4 Advils along with my customary electrolytes to make sure I could push through it. It didn’t matter. I could not get past the middle of Zone 2. My legs were in pain even if my heart and lungs were ready to fight. After an hour of physical and psychological torture, I threw in the towel and accepted defeat. I know… not the triumphant ending I wanted either.
So, I thought it was just such a bad idea – the whole 1500 points in 4 days until I saw that my girlfriend (who is the same age and following the same plan, and yet with less riding experience) actually completed it with 4 minutes to spare! Not only did she do it, but she got all her Zone 5 time and had a much more demanding work schedule than I did. She had to get up a 4:00am every morning to get 2 hrs in before work, and on two of the days also spin after work!
Clearly this Cycling Fusion training plan was hard but not impossible. Did I just wimp out? Do I just not have the fire in the belly? I’ve raced and competed in sports for most of my life. I know the difference between motivation and ability, and in this case it was clearly ability. My legs would simply not let me finish despite how much I wanted to. Were her legs sore too? Yes of course, but she did not have the continuous pain nor did she start each workout with legs that felt like they just rode 50 miles. Something about my legs and perhaps my 2 hip replacements were complicating my story – but she has had other leg injuries also that she has recovered from, so we might not be able to pin point it on that.
As I try to analyze what happened, I’m left with the feeling that I did not let my legs recover enough between hard efforts, and I might have worked on too much muscular endurance when I should have focused on aerobic conditioning. I will hopefully not be putting myself in a position to get a week’s worth of hard (anything over 1000 points is considered hard) training load points in less than 7 days anytime soon. While I try to better manage my body and my limitations though, I must give massive kudos to The Amazing Cathy Britsch – she kicked my _ _ _ last week and I’m so proud of her for it!!
In my last blog post we talked about the importance of recovery. This week we show it’s related topic; Cumulative Fatigue. Even with the intensity of this Cycling Fusion mega-endurance training plan being predominantly in zone 2, if enough recovery is not introduced, fatigue will build up and some sort of workout failure will occur. Here is a case in point where this very thing has happened to me just last week.
I teach Wednesday morning, Wednesday night and Thursday morning. On Wednesday morning I was able to ride to work outside – a rare treat in the middle of winter for me so I did not squander the opportunity. I also just came off of a recovery week and did not work out on Tuesday. So my class on Wed morning was titled “No Black Holes” where we spent 35 min doing muscular endurance followed by 13 zone 5 intervals. I hit zone 5 for all 13 intervals. It was extremely hard but very rewarding.
Wed night I did more zone 2 and some zone 3 work for another 2 hrs. Thursday morning came and of course I had to teach in the morning. On Thursdays, I always repeat the same class as Wed because the students are 85% different, and I don’t have time to make 2 new classes each week. However, it is now Thursday and my training week comes to a close on Friday. I have only 2 days to get the rest of my training load points, and I’m over 500 points short!
Consequently, I make the first half of class a higher level of Muscular Endurance in zone 3 and zone 4. After 2:30 worth of recovery we start those 13 intervals again. Even trying as hard as I could, I could not get myself up to zone 5. I only hit zone 5 a total of 3 times for just a few seconds each. Just 1 day ago, I had a “perfect’ performance of hitting 13 for 13.
Very simply I had so much fatigue built into the legs that I could not get them to produce the same level of power that would throw my heart rate response into Zone 5. I was pushing as hard as I could but I was limited by my legs – they had reached a “point of failure” as it relates to cycling given how much riding I had been doing (4.5 hrs over the last 24 hrs).
Implications for Training and Performance
First of all, this overtly demonstrates why “tapering” before a race or a big event is essential. You must neutralize whatever fatigue has built up so you can enter the event with “fresh legs”. Secondly we need to give some easy workouts or a day off between days when we plan to do the high end zone 5 type work, or we will be disappointing ourselves and our coach. In my specific training plan for the Haleakala climb,
I looked back and saw that I have been short in zone 5 more than any other zone throughout the first 6 weeks of training. This is likely due to getting so many points back to back on Wed and Thur of each week. I will now be much more careful as to when I plan on getting those zone 5 minutes so that I can fulfill my mandate for training. I will spread out the zone 5 efforts so that I have a much fresher set of legs and body on days where I plan on traveling to “the promised land”
The two most disrespected concepts in exercise physiology is the endurance work that must be done at low intensity levels, and the importance of recovery to any training plan. Actually, those that have a plan and understand periodized training typically know the importance of recovery, but those that are just “riding more” to get better probably do not. At Cycling Fusion we often say that the only difference between success and failure is either having a plan or not.
It stems back to the fundamentals of the training and adaptation principal of stressing the body leads to adaptation, but the pattern is actually more accurately represented by the stress and adaptation graphic we often use in our Winter Training lectures. By increasing the stress in the body over several weeks consistently, the body is poised to adapt; to be forced to respond to increasing demands. However, without the recovery that allows the body to restore itself, the consistently increasing stress can also cause over-training or fatigue beyond what the body can handle and that can easily sideline the best of athletes.
What Does Recovery Mean
Recovery simply put, is reducing the quantity and intensity of workouts enough to allow the body to feel restored and relaxed. This is not complete relaxation, sleeping all day, partying, giving up on the diet – tempting I know, but that’s not what it is. In general it amounts to reducing your workload by 50% to 70%, and all but eliminating the very intense workouts. We tend to think of training in terms of a number of weeks, so recovery is also in those terms – 1 week is the customary time frame.
When To Take Recovery
So the big question is when or how often should one take a recovery week. I believe the following are good guidelines. A frequency of no more than once every 3 weeks and no less than once every 6 weeks (some exceptions can still fall outside those guidelines – but those are rare) will work for most people.
Guidelines aside, it’s still best to take recovery only when you need it. You will want to know and feel when it is time. This will help you train so that your body will respond to the training in the best manner possible. If you are feeling good – push past week 3, then past week 4 then past week 5 and 6 if you are that much “in the zone”. If you start to not enjoy the training, and find yourself cutting corners, or experience erratic heart rates, etc. then this would be a good time to take that recovery week.