Rest or recovery?
Rest or recovery?
In this series of articles I have explained how to make the most of your ride to work, the club run and a turbo trainer session, in order to make sure you are getting the greatest possible training benefit from the limited time you may have on the bike.
The flip side of the training coin is that you need to balance very hard training sessions with very easy ones and this is where recovery rides come in. Still, the same idea applies and there are ways to make sure you make the most of your recovery rides, besides recovery itself.
We covered the key principles behind recovery in a previous piece but it’s worth reminding ourselves why you may do an hour’s recovery ride, rather than just take a rest day. After all, if the idea is to recover as much as possible then why not just take the day off the bike?
Well, your body is programmed to try and recover as much as possible when it gets the chance, so if you have a day off the bike then your body grabs this opportunity and will often go into shutdown mode to try and deal with all the hard training you have been putting in.
This means that the day after a rest day, when you come to try and complete a set of hard intervals, it will often take you a few efforts to get going, which isn’t ideal as it will effect the quality of your session. By doing a recovery ride, the idea is that it keeps your body ticking over and means that come the next hard session you are ready to go – it’s why most riders at the Tour de France will head out for a spin on the race’s two rest days.
As a coach, I would estimate that 85 per cent of cyclists ride too hard during their recovery rides. A recovery ride should consist of simply turning the pedals over – coaches refer to this as active recovery (zone one, if you use training zones). It shouldn’t give your body any sort of training stimulus; that is to say it should be of a level so easy you wouldn’t consider it training. A useful analogy is to imagine a marathon runner walking to the shops. They are using the same muscles but you wouldn’t in any way think it would make them faster over 42km.
That said, just because you aren’t giving your body any training stimulus, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do during a recovery ride to get more out of your time on the bike without adversely affecting your recovery.