A guide to what, resting? Are you serious? Yes, very. Knowing when and how to rest is the single most important consideration if you want to become a faster, stronger cyclist. More important than how to train properly, more important than nutrition or aerodynamics or losing weight. More important than the bike you ride. Whaaaa? I know!
Oi you, get off that bike and take a break will you? Without rest all of the above is simply wasted effort because you will be too tired to benefit. I’ve been on a quest dear readers. For two years I’ve searched the farthest recesses of Google, of my body [eugh].
Why? I’ve been trying to identify why I’m always tired. Not a little sleepy, or legs a little wobbly. Nope, proper tired, where lactic acid kicks off in the thighs when you stand up, many days after your last bike ride.
I’ve written about overtraining, of resting, and then resting some more. In this time I questioned nutrition, hydration and mental stress. I tried everything. Stretching. Feet in the air. Drinking milk. Taking iron supplements. Fish oils. I just about stopped short of seeking out a shaman.
Yet there is no miracle cure to tiredness. Is there? Actually, yes there is. Quite simply you need to identify the cause and not get distracted by the cures. This means focusing on the rides not the post-ride rituals. The secret to a strong recovery is not the actual recovery period but ensuring you don’t ride your body into oblivion in the first place.
A cyclist’s guide to resting
1 || Stop the epic rides
This has been the single most important solution to reducing my fatigue. My riding had previously reduced itself to one monster epic ride each Sunday, 70 – 100 miles, 1,500 plus metres of climbing, always seeking out short sharp hills and beasting my way up them at 100%.
I would spend 2-3 hours in Zone 3 plus with several Zone 5 efforts. In English, I was overdoing things on a vast scale. I would watch my Strava feed and marvel at how folk would ride 3 or 4 times a week when I could manage just one ride, crippled for the remainder of the week as I commuted and rode at speeds approaching stationary.
Never quite recovering each week, fatigue accumulated and I burnt out. Even taking a week off did not help. I was done for.
2 || Measure volume and intensity
Epic rides over, I’ve taken to measuring my efforts, using TSS (Total Stress Score), which combines both volume and intensity to give your ride an overall score. TSS, Strava Suffer Score, TRIMP, all these things are the essentially the same despite the different calculations. The actual score does not matter, the number is as an index you can use to gauge your efforts and total up your weekly efforts.
There’s no right or wrong number, just what works for you. You’ll soon learn when you’ve been overdoing it and can then plan rides with a TSS that ensures you remain within your limits whilst still stressing your muscles and improving.
3 || One week off every four weeks
This has been a game changer for me. Old school training advice. Not only does the week off keep me physically fresh but also mentally sharp. Come week four the last thing I want to do is take a week off, yet by doing so I allow my muscles to recover and repair whilst mentally I’m looking forward to my next ride more than ever. Other benefits of the 3/4 training regime include getting a weekend of your life back and discovering there is life beyond two wheels!
4 || Sleep
Prioritise sleep. This has become a mantra of mine. It is during sleep where you body recovers the most. Forget all that stretching and massaging and raising your legs business, sleep is where you will recover. Take a post ride nap. Enjoy a lie in if you can before you go for a ride. Need to get up early for the early Sunday ride? Go to bed early. Avoid caffeine after noon, eat early, put on some Sigur Ros and drift off to recovery land.
5 || Bin the junk miles
More old school advice. Don’t tag an extra 10 miles onto the weekend spin. Stop racing during the commute. Get the bus, take the train or drive the car one or two days a week. Ignore Strava segments. Quality over quantity. If you don’t measure rides in workload as per #3 above, measure rides in time not distance and certainly not average speed.
The five resting tips above work for me better than all the other mumbo jumbo out there on the interweb (believe me, I’ve tried!). I ride more, I ride faster. Not that I’ve come up with anything revolutionary, it’s just common sense. The biggest problem with cycling is the desire to keep on improving which unfortunately can easily become the thing that stops us improving!
Lead image, courtesy of CycleTsar