How often should you train?
What days should you train?
When should you rest? And how much?
These are the needs that have to be assessed as you determine your training schedule. But it can also be enough to make you want to rip your hair out.
When it comes to making a training schedule, you have to address specific quesitons in order to create the most effective one. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
1) How often are you going to practice?
Remember that practice counts as training. There are obvious exceptions to this, but if you are going to a normal practice, you need to block that day off as a day that you’ve already trained.
2) How often are you going to train outside of practice?
Ideally, for the most growth and improvement, you want to shoot for your practices and training to add up to 5 or 6 days per week MAXIMUM. That gives you at least one day of full rest and recovery.
Your training experience and goals will be a big determinant of exactly how often you want to train vs practice vs rest. This process will take a little bit of trial and error because how often you can train outside of practices is unique to YOU.
I can usually manage 3 additional training days per week without issue. Where I have a teammate that can easily manage 5. You want to find your sweet spot, the Goldilocks zone, the number that feels just right without any performance decreases, injuries, insanity, etc.
And you’ll have to play around with it.
If even starting training is daunting, start small. One day a week sound good? Great. Do it. It’s okay that you’re not suddenly jumping into heavy training. I promise.
3) What else do you need time to do?
This is where you want to think about other things that you might want to do instead of your typical training. Or a specific and important event that you might want to adapt your training schedule around.
In the Pacific Northwest, in the winter, snowboarding is huge. (I hate it. In fact, the first — and last — time I ever went snowboarding the instructor suggested I try a different sport. But, I digress.)
Let’s imagine that you want to take a day off of work and go snowboarding. For that week, you might now have 2 practices that you’ll be attending and 1 day that you’ll be snowboarding. Snowboarding is intense enough that you would need to adjust your schedule accordingly.
Games are something else that can affect your training schedule. Going into games rested is super important and that might require you to adjust your other training to give yourself time to physically (and mentally and emotionally) prep for the bout.
4) Are there any other things you need to work on?
The term “rest day” is sometimes a misnomer. There are REST rest days (where you don’t do any sort of physical activity above and beyond your typical day) and ACTIVE rest* days (where you do a light physical activity, but not a full workout).
SIDE NOTE: Rest does not come easily for many an athlete, especially when they’ve been in the “workout to play” camp for a long time. So here’s the quick rundown: an active rest day consists of activities like strolling through your neighborhood, taking time to smell the roses. It does not consist of a forced march to the end of the block and back. You could do gentle yoga that focuses on stretching on an active rest day, but does not focus on holding strenuous poses in a 108 degree room. Doing 10 minutes of HIIT instead of your usual 60 minutes IS NOT AN ACTIVE REST DAY. Anything that raises your heart rate significantly, causes muscle fatigue, or has sweat dripping off of you at any point is not active rest.
You can use additional days where you aren’t practicing or heavily training to tackle other issues. Like prehab.
Most of these decisions are personal to you. Do you need full rest days? Do you need to do prehab? What do you want your schedule to look like?
Like with most other parts of your schedule, start plugging things in to see how they feel. If, after a few weeks, they aren’t working they way you want them to, throw them out. NBD.
5) How often should you rest?
Whether we’re talking about REST rest days or ACTIVE rest days, it’s important to know how many you want. Or how many you should think about taking. It’s nice to have at least one full rest day. Anything else is determined by your goals and wants.
6) Can you double up?
Two-a-days (where you practice/train twice in one day) are fine. Sometimes. But a constant schedule of two-a-days is a huge stressor to your system and is unsustainable for the long haul.
However, many recreational sports schedules are hard to work around and two-a-days might be unavoidable.
If you’re going to double up a workout and a practice, try to keep it to once a week. And pay close attention to how your body responds. You may find that a two-a-day once a week is fine. You may have to do a two-a-day every other week. Or you may have to scale back your training days because two-a-days just aren’t for you.
Those are all okay.
The question of two-a-days also leads us back to rest. In terms of two-a-days, my biggest recommendation is that if you are doing a training workout plus a practice on any given day, the next day is a rest day. Like a real rest day. Not a practice day. Not a moderate intensity cardio day. A LIGHT prehab workout, some foam rolling, or gentle yoga — maximum. But seriously, just rest.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re creating your schedule and assessing your need is this:
There is no right answer.
Or EVERY answer is the right answer.
I guess your view depends on whether you’re a glass half full or a glass half empty individual. It’s important to remember that the right schedule is the schedule that works for you. If your schedule stops working for you, change it.
Remember, that starting light is always better. Even if it’s going to feel weird at first.
Case in point, I was training a skater that I had scaled back to 3 cross training sessions per week when she was used to 5. She kept messaging me and calling me and emailing me, “I have so much energy. I’m not working out enough. Can’t I just do one more day? Like a HIIT routine or something?” I’m sorry what? *record scratch* You have TOO MUCH ENERGY? What does that even mean?
Too much energy…psssh.
You’ll have weeks when your training doesn’t fit perfectly into your schedule.
You’ll have weeks when you need to make adjustments on the fly.
You’ll have weeks when you do less (or more).
That’s all okay. Your schedule is never set in stone. You just have to bring the consistency to something most of the time.
If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.