The Zatopek Effect

I figured out what is wrong – I am a victim of The Zatopek Effect. I thought I had time on my hands with only one workout a day this week. Well, today I took the entire day off – no work and no exercise. My fever was hovering around 100 this morning and I knew enough to stay home – and rest. I recalled in my early days of running learning about Emil Zatopek. He was hospitalized before a big race and didn’t run for several days, left the hospital, ran and won every event. With the extra time on my hands, I did some research. While laying down of course…

Joe Friel – a leader in the triathlon world of coaching, author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible, founder of TrainingPeaks, and many more accomplishments – writes about The Zatopek Effect. Click the link to read in detail. The summary is that all too often endurance athletes train much harder than is necessary (I find this hard to believe…) and rest less than they should, especially right before big races. In this article he describes what happened to Zatopek and how the rest helped him. He goes on to say “In a similar manner, I’ve known of athletes in a variety of sports to develop a slight injury or become sick a few days or weeks before a competition and yet have a personal-best performance.” Wow. I have had both – injury and now sick. Does this mean I will have a personal-best? I am not setting my heart on it, but it does encourage me to listen to my body and rest.

The discipline of rest is one of the hardest things to master. Active rest after an event makes sense – easy walking, light cycling, nothing too taxing to clear lactic acid. But doing nothing for more than a day is nearly impossible for me. The odd thing is our bodies are made to rest a third of every day. If we do not get enough sleep it catches up and the result is exhaustion. Why is it that it is so hard not to incorporate the concept of rest once in a while into the other two thirds of the day? The answer may be long coming for me, but for now I have no choice. I will rest. I want to race on Sunday and I feel I am on the up swing now. Friel describes a taper as “A bare-bones, minimum taper is about three days of greatly decreased activity.” Day one is done. Two to go.

17 thoughts on “The Zatopek Effect

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  1. I’m a big believer that rest is the best thing you can do for your body. My weight training is a four day cycle, so body parts get worked once, maybe twice per week. This plan has worked better for me than any in my 20 year history of weight training. Also, when I don’t run a full week before races, I’m at my best on race day. Hope you feel better soon and the rest prepares you to be in tip-top shape for Sunday.
    fyi, comment box is checked again 😦

    1. Thanks for the feed back! I hope it helps. As for the box, I just forwarded you an email WordPress sent. We can change the default so when we leave messages we choose, not the blogger. If you saw a check, you may need to change settings. Let me know if it helps!

  2. Thanks once again for the very interesting information. I often struggle with my tapper and glad to read since I sometimes question the benefits of doing so.

  3. First of all, I hope you feel better soon. Thanks for letting us know about the Zapotek effect. Joe Friel also says that it is better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. I haven’t run in about three weeks because of my ankle, and I also have a triathlon this Sunday. I’m hoping this forced rest will have some benefit. As my ankle started doing better I had to fight every temptation inside of me to get out and try to do a little running. But no matter what happens as long as I finish it will be a personal best!

  4. Hope you feel better soon! Rest and taper are important. Sometimes our bodies tell us that they need rest in form of getting a fever. We need to listen more often.

  5. I was going to tell you to listen to your body, but I figured you wouldn’t listen to me since this body thinks running and exercise in general is torture. 🙂 But I see it would have been good advice.

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