Winning On Sunday, Starts on Monday


By Daniel Moffatt-Martin


I have always been a very firm believer in the above statement, and the key underlining element of that sentence is RECOVERY. A winning performance (at the elite level) does not just happen by coincidence. One cannot simply just turn up on game day and put in a gold medal performance without the correct lead up to that game or event. It takes the right preparation and formula to achieve the desired result.


If you watch closely, a top-level athlete or team will always begin their weekly routine first thing Monday. If they have just played or competed the previous day what they do Monday morning is going to be very important in laying the foundation and setting the scene for the week ahead. Coming off a competition day on Sunday, the following morning will generally consist of a structured recovery session to prepare the body for another solid training week.


The quicker an athlete can get back to 100% after a game or race, the more constructive work can be done in that following week. An athlete who chooses to do nothing on the Monday after a game will find their personal recovery process to take a lot longer before they are ready to push hard in training again through the week. An athlete who perceives themselves as elite, and uses Monday morning as a chance to get themselves ready for the week ahead will be better physically and mentally prepared. Let’s look at two different examples of an athlete’s weekly preparation.


Example 1.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM Recovery Strength Rest Strength Rest Active rest Game Day
PM Skills session Cond. 1 Skills session Cond.2 Skills Session Active rest Game Day


Athlete 1 in this example is able to set their week up with a strong balance between their strength, skills and conditioning days.


Example 2.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
AM Rest Strength Rest Strength Rest Active rest Game Day
PM Rest Cond.1 Skills session Cond.2 Skills session Active rest Game Day


Athlete 2 in this example, even if following the exact same program has a few things going on here. It may look like the only difference is that they miss 1 skills session on Monday, but if we break down the following few sessions we can see what may occur.

  1. Because they haven’t recovered on Monday, their first physical movement is strength on Tuesday. Now I can tell you with great confidence that athlete 2 will not be as effective in the gym as athlete 1, and therefore that session will be regressed to a lower RPE because athlete 2 will not be able to train at the same intensity as athlete 1.
  2. If this is the case, then the conditioning session to follow on the same day will have a similar effect and therefore be regressed.
  3. If we fast forward through the week, our second strength session may also be affected. Because session 1 at the beginning of the week was not able to be completed at the correct intensity, the athlete may feel the need to work harder than needed in this session because mentally he/she knows that session 1 wasn’t up to par. This will cause a greater fatigue level than we want for this late in the week.
  4. The athlete is now coming into the weekend slightly more fatigued than expected and this could impact Sundays performance.


Of course, this is all just hypothesising, but we can see that in certain instances, what we do on Monday has a strong correlation with how the back end of the week and game day can be effected. There are also mental aspects to think about also. If an athlete is confident that they have prepared to the best of their ability all week, then they carry that confidence into the game or comp on Sunday. On the reverse side of that, if an athlete is trying to make up the extra work in the back end of the week, they feel rushed an unprepared. Much like you do when you are cramming for an exam, you’re stressed and nervous because you feel you have left your run too late and you carry those feelings into the exam with you. The same can be said with an athlete and competition.


Good recovery protocols are an essential for every athlete to perform to the best of their ability. Getting the body back to homeostasis as quickly as possible through movement, nutrition, hydration and positive psychology can be the difference between a winning performance and an average one. As a coach, I can often tell the difference between a committed athlete and an average one, not by their work schedule mid -week, but how they conduct themselves on Mondays.