The Art of Rest

by Jeremy Hunt

The Art of Rest
More isn't better. That is an important thing to understand as you try to improve as a cyclist.

Resting is hard to do. Get your head around the fact that after a 10 hour weekend on the bike you will need a day or two to recover, and 3 days to fully recover if you're older. The more older age cyclists I train, and as I get older myself, I am finding there are fewer and fewer outliers to this "rule". When I say 3 days to fully recover, it isn't 3 days of no riding as that will have you feeling tired and heavy in the legs, and you'll probably feel like you have lost fitness. It is 3 days of active recovery, riding but not training hard, enjoying the relaxing time on two wheels. The upside to that too, is that when you return to harder training, you will feel ready to go and won't "blow the engine" in your first hard session back.

There's an art to it (recovering from hard training) and professional cyclists do it well, possibly better than any other athletes.

Every week without fail will consist of:
  • 1 day a week complete rest, a light walk and some stretching.
  • 1 day a week of just 1-2 hrs Zone 1/2 to coffee shop or gym.

The body needs time to recover. Let's say we give a 30 hour week, it is going to take 5 days easy to recover from this. We can look at CTL (chronic training load) which gives us a good guideline, and history would tell us riders of most levels will take the best part of 5 days to recover from a huge week of training.

Cycling isn't about feeling tired all the time, but feeling energised - unless you're trying to be a pro. Two days off per week is good. The funny side of this is quite a few retired pros end up being just as strong, or stronger, post retirement when they are not completely fatigued all the time!

If you want to nail your efforts and get maximum benefits you need to be well rested. Not fresh, as this isn't always the best either, but well rested mentally and physically, as this will allow you to hit the training sessions both physically and mentally ready to complete a killer session.

Remember the guy who would peak for the Chain gang and then get dropped in the race? The guy who would go well in one race a year and then you wouldn't see him for rest of the year? Being able to log training difficulty and chronic load with new technology now tells us these were likely riders who trained too much and didn't rest enough, meaning they would be inconsistent with their performance.

It's good to do group rides slightly tired, especially if it is backing up the day after a harder session. The most important thing after the group ride if you are then exhausted, is to recover and reset. As the old saying goes, "don't stand when you can sit, don't sit when you can lie". You don't want to be mentally drained all the time, and having a mentally or physically stressful job can add to this on top of dedicated training, so take the time to focus on your mental and physical freshness and wellbeing. Burning the candle at both ends for too long can lead to long term problems such as Glandular Fever and other chronic fatigue related illnesses.

Try to get in the habit of switching off whenever you get the time. A 20 min nap is better than a full sleep and will do wonders for you. Try to make this a habit.

Train hard, rest and recover hard, and stay healthy! That's the key to good cycling performance.

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