Resting and cycling – fitness suicide?

Rest any chance you get

Rest is fitness suicide to the cyclist. To rest is to idle, to degrade. Should Sunday morning arrive and the dear cyclist be found lying on the sofa, you’ll see horror etched on their face, eyes wide and glued to their legs, which they believe are undergoing a Kafkaesque transformation into marshmallow.

Getting a cyclist to rest is like sending a child to bed early. It maybe for our own good yet all we think about is what we’re missing out on. We do not exist if our pedals are not turning.

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it
Sydney J. Harris

Guilt. To rest is to disobey our master. Condemned indoors, we are overwhelmed with a sense of self-neglect. We sneak in step-ups on kerbs when nobody is looking or make a point to dash up escalators as fast as we can, convinced it’s all part of our grand cycling plan.

Why? We’re amateurs. Cycling is not a day job. Many of us will never even enter a Cat 4 race. Yet we’re human. We’re conditioned to progress. To stop is to regress, to devolve. On we push, overtraining, continually stalked by a competitor we can never beat. Ourselves.

What is this ‘rest’ you talk of?

I train in my sleep
I train in my sleep
I don’t know about you, but I am not a man of moderation. My life is dedicated to overdoing it. All or nothing. Cycling. Boozing. Coffee. Bob Dylan. Reading. Writing. Once hooked I am obsessive. Hobbies, I’ve seen a few. I am a locust, devouring all there is before moving on to my next great distraction. Idle moments are few and far between.

When I do rest, it too becomes a task to do, something to achieve. Lying down becomes a science. I once read that elevating your feet above the knees helps to drain toxins and lactate from your legs. OK, pass me all of the cushions you can lay your hands on. Bad science? Probably. Yet it matters. Psychologically I’m telling myself that lying on the couch is still ‘training’. ‘I’m a pro’, I whisper to myself when my girlfriend asks me why I’m crushing the cushions with my scabby feet.

Don’t walk if you can stand. Don’t stand if you can sit.
Don’t sit if you can lie down.

Pro cycling proverb

The burgeoning cycling industry plays to such mental mind tricks. Be it foam rollers to squish our tired muscles or miraculous drinks that restore us to our former superhuman selves. Christ, I can even buy recovery socks. I’ll hold on to my money thank you very much and keep my fingers crossed for the inevitable appearance of the recovery bandanna (patent pending).

Step away from the Lyrca

We're just stretching, honest
We’re just stretching, honest
So how does one rest ‘properly’? Sure, you can Google it and swallow as much bad science as you like but it’s quite simple really. Stop riding. Sleep.

Resting is not separate to training, it is training. Build it into your schedule. A rest day is as important as the zone five eyeball burster up the local hill. A zone one gentle spin is not rest. One, because you’re still actually cycling and two, because it’s a well known fact that 99.5 percent of zone one rides turn into a slogfest within the first five minutes. Guilty as charged.

I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting
Mark Twain

Rest means no bike. Step away from the Lyrca! Swapping the road bike for a cross bike doesn’t count. No indoor trainers, no cross training, no core strength exercises. Take a bath. Read a book. Rediscover the life that has literally been passing you by.

There’s no secret way to somehow rest better. Forget ice baths or a trip to the massage parlour for a deep tissue massage. Sleep. Nap. Catch forty winks. Enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two, and no, don’t be tempted to add electrolytes. Eat a meal that does not include a banana or a mountain of carbohydrates. Sleep in. Smile at the rain. Meditate if you wish, just don’t take it all so seriously. That means no reading articles such as this beauty, which advises that taking a bath is the advanced stage of doing nothing. Seriously.

Are you mental?

At least I'll beat that bloke behind me
At least I’ll beat that bloke behind me
It’s not just legs that get weary. Think about your poor overloaded head. I took a month off the bike last year. This did little for my fitness levels but certainly had me raring to go again upon my return. No matter how much we love the bike, there comes the day when you will tire at the sight it. The fact this day is usually cold, wet and windy is probably just a coincidence.

How about you? What bad science or bad habits do you follow?

Images courtesy of 1) Caters News Agency 2) Paul Schneggenburger 3) Nathan Crumpton 4) Unknown


11 thoughts on “Resting and cycling – fitness suicide?

  1. Dammit, I thought it was only me who sprinted up the stairs in underground stations whilst looking disparagingly at my fellow travellers on the escalator.

    Contrary to your advice above, I’ve found that electrolyte drinks are surprisingly good for hangover recovery.


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