Recovery is one of the most important parts of any training plan, and all goal-oriented cyclists should make it a priority. You can maximize your recovery through dedicated recovery sessions, scheduled rest, and extra attention to sleep and nutrition.
Why You Need Recovery
Recovery is a necessary component of any training plan – without it, you actually never get faster. As you recover from the stress accumulated through training, your body gets stronger through a process called super compensation. Super compensation begins when you introduce a training stimulus higher than what your body is accustomed to. When your body fully recovers from this training stress, it overcompensates in preparation for these new demands. Over time, this process leads to increases in capability.
Recovery is also why challenging training loads are sustainable. In general, your system can only handle so much stress and back-to-back training. Regularly building rest into your training plan helps ensure your training stays efficient and that you are not at risk for overtraining.
When Do You Need Rest?
As you train consistently, you need to build regular rest intervals into your training plan. In the short term, get as much rest as possible between workouts, with at least one full rest day per week. The daily rest between workouts allows you to string together multiple hard sessions, while the weekly rest day gives your body a chance to recover from the training stress accumulated during the week.
Get the right workout each time by adapting your training.
In addition to your regular weekly schedule, you should have a dedicated recovery week after each training block. The recovery week gives your system a full chance to recover from the previous few weeks of your training plan. In the long run, you may also want to consider taking a few weeks completely off the bike once the season ends. The offseason break gives you a chance to recover from the overall physical and mental stress of training.
Proper Periodized Training Plan
In a properly periodized training plan, rest and recovery are already allotted into the structure of the plan. Following a plan with structured rest built in is a great way to ensure you actively incorporate recovery into your routine and take days away from the bike. In a structured training plan, recovery time is integrated through recovery rides, recovery weeks, and rest days.
What Are Recovery Rides?
Recovery rides are easy rides, usually lasting thirty to sixty minutes. The purpose of recovery rides is to get your blood flowing, get your legs moving, while placing minimal stress on your system. While they may feel challenging when you are fatigued, these workouts are not strenuous and should aid recovery. If you follow a structured training plan, there will be recovery rides during recovery weeks, and occasionally during regular training weeks as well.
The purpose of rest days is simple – rest! On rest days, you should not schedule any recovery rides or even recovery activities. Instead, you should aim to put as little stress on your body as possible. In a sensible training plan, you will have at least one dedicated rest day per week. How many actual rest days ultimately depends on how much rest you need, which is different for everyone.
Recovery weeks parallel the structure of regular training weeks but still maintain low intensity workouts. These workouts are usually recovery rides, with the intent of active recovery. At the end of a recovery week, you should feel primed and ready for the next phase of training. You should do a recovery week after each training block – roughly every three to six weeks depending on the plan.
Rest Versus Recovery
While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, rest and recovery are slightly different in the context of periodized training plans. Put simply, rest refers to time off. When you rest, you allow your body to completely recover from training and other strenuous activity. Recovery encompasses the whole adaptation process, including activities and practices that aid the recovery process.
Key Components of Recovery
In addition to adequate rest, you should also actively focus on key components of recovery during training. Most importantly, these are sleep and nutrition. Your sleep and nutrition play a huge role in your recovery status, and both can be positively influenced through some changes.
Most of your body’s recovery process happens at night, during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stage 3. This stage is often called deep sleep. During deep sleep, our bodies release hormones that promote immune function, cell regeneration, and tissue repair. If your sleep quality is poor, or you are not getting adequate sleep, you may have suboptimal recovery.
Consistently getting eight hours of high-quality sleep is one of the most impactful things you can do for your recovery, though that is easier said than done. If you have sleep issues, you may be able to improve your sleep through good sleep hygiene and regular sleep times.
Making an effort to replenish nutrients during recovery weeks, rest days, and recovery rides can help ensure you have adequate fuel to aid your body’s adaptation process. What, when, and how much you eat will depend on your physiology and the degree of fatigue you are experiencing. If you are overly fatigued going into a recovery week, you may need to eat more. If you feel normal fatigue levels, your eating habits may not change at all.
Your body is recovering and adapting to the stress of training – your job is to make sure you have adequate fuel to get it done. When possible, avoid dieting or restricting calories during recovery periods. You need to fuel to properly drive this recovery process, and if you do not get adequate fuel, you may fail to cash in on all of the hard work you just put in.
One way to help ensure you get the carbohydrates and protein your body needs for recovery is to drink a recovery beverage immediately after training. Recovery drinks are not an absolute necessity for recovery, but they do help ensure you get the carbohydrates and protein your system needs post-workout. Recovery drinks with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio have what you need, replenishing your glycogen stores immediately after challenging workouts and promoting muscle glycogen synthesis.
5 Recovery Tips for Cyclists
- Prioritize recovery in your training.
You can’t get faster without recovery. Recover through dedicated rest days, recovery rides, and increasing your time off the bike.
- Have a recovery plan.
You can reinforce recovery by having a set routine. Drinking recovery drinks, foam rolling, and doing yoga are a few examples you can build into your regular schedule.
- Fuel yourself.
Rest days, recovery rides, and recovery weeks require proper fuel. Nourish yourself with nutrient-dense foods during recovery to ensure your body has the fuel it needs to adapt and get stronger.
- Prioritize sleep.
Improving your sleep duration and consistency can help you feel more rested while also aiding your body’s adaptation process.
- Listen to your body.
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel like you need extra time to recover, embrace it! Taking necessary rest when you need it won’t make you slower. In fact, resting when you truly need to makes you faster in the long run, and helps maintain motivation over the long haul.
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Post time: Jul-22-2023