Cycling Recovery Week – Cycling Recovery Rides – Are They Important?
Most cyclists plan a cycling recovery week into their schedule, but is it that important? How often should it be? And are recovery rides worth it? These are all common questions that are often forgotten.
Riders often think more about the training volume rather than the recovery, thus plateauing their improvement and in worst cases seeing a decline in their performance.
Whether you have tired legs after cycling or had a stressful day at work, planning your recovery weeks is just as important as the training itself. Also being able to adapt your schedule based on fatigue and stress is another factor that can help you improve on the bike.
Time spent off the bike or doing an active recovery workout is as important as the time spent training. This means repairing the muscle damage caused by long or intense efforts on the bike.
Sports Scientists and manufacturers for years have been looking at ways to reduce soreness, injury, and fatigue that are all generated from training. Often we get suckered into the latest technology or make wrong decisions for our training. Looking at the basics of cycling recovery can help not only improve your cycling but help you to structure your training better, preventing taking a week off exercise because of fatigue and overtraining.
Cycling Recovery Ride – What Does it Mean?
A cycling recovery ride should be your easiest ride of the week. But remember it is often the hardest training session people can implement correctly. It is also widely overlooked when in fact it is one of the most important rides of the week.
Many rides have the urge to train hard every day and often believe this is the way to see improvement. But if fact you often see the opposite. Lack of recovery rides in your training leads to illness, overtraining and breakdown, thus leading to losing interest in riding altogether.
Cycling recovery rides or active recovery training can be broken down into different intensities through RPE, Power and Heartrate. This gives you multiple areas to make sure your recovery rides are slow enough.
Heartrate during recovery rides:
Your average heart rate should be below 68% of your threshold heart rate.
Power during recovery rides:
Power should be kept below 55% of your functional threshold power (FTP)
Perceived exertion of a recovery ride:
Your level of exertion should be very low, to the point where you are producing low pressure on the pedals. The perceived exertion should feel that of a 2 of 10.
Cycling Recovery Week
Since you have a baseline of how hard your recovery rides should be, what about your cycling recovery week?
In addition to planning in recovery rides you should also think about planning in a cycling recovery week. Each block of strenuous training should be followed by a recovery week that allows freshness to return. Thus helping you to adapt to past training and relieve mental and physical stress on the body.
Planning a cycling recovery week should be based around the level of fatigue generated from your training. A good rule of thumb is to include a recovery week every 3-4 weeks. While in the season you may find this becomes shorter or longer apart because of racing blocks or training camps.
Ideally a good rule of thumb is to plan every 4 weeks for a master cyclist and every 3 weeks for the younger cyclist. While this shouldn’t be a set guideline, it is a good starting point. A master cyclist may have years of cycling behind them and have the lifestyle to handle a 4 or even 5-week training cycle. On the other hand a younger athlete may be new to cycling and yet doesn’t have the fitness to handle a longer training cycle. So Age, fitness, and background play a large role in determining when your easier weeks should be.
Below is a sample of a recovery week for one of our athletes. We include two rest days instead of one, include some light intensity and test later in the week. Typically this athletes volume has dropped 30-35% and intensity dropped significantly.
Tuesday: Light Interval Workout (50% less time spent at set power output for the interval).
Wednesday: Light Recovery Ride
Thursday: Complete Rest Day
Friday: Light Recovery Ride (including 5 minutes set at goal test power).
Saturday: Test Day – 5 Minute or 20 Minute Power Test
Sunday: Longer aerobic ride (z1-2)
Remember this is only a sample recovery week riding and the recovery week is constantly changing depending on the time of season and fatigue accumulated.
During the later stages of the week the cyclist should be feeling fresh and recovered. This means once the athlete is recovered enough that we can move into the next training cycle, or in this case test their current functional threshold power.
When Cycling How Many Rest Days Should I Have?
The number of rest days in your cycling training should first depend on certain factors.
– Time Available
– Time of season
Knowing these are the key ingredient to building rest days into your training. For the more elite cyclists one full day is recommended, this allows the mind to refresh and also allow for some extra time for a massage.
For the general cyclist anywhere from 1-3 rest days is enough for adequate recovery. Although this primarily depends on the factors above. The key is to gain consistency in your training and implementing cycling recovery days and cycling recovery weeks will help give you that.
Remember so many people overload themselves with training and don’t recover from it. This in turn worsens their form, making them train harder and getting them stuck in a vicious circle.
Recovery Rides vs Rest Days
There is often a debate between doing recovery rides vs having a rest day. If you an experienced cyclist you should know what provides the best recovery for you. If you are unsure what to do, your goal should be to get to your next hard training day with the most energy possible. This could mean not riding at all prior to this session or just taking an easy recovery ride instead.
As we age our recovery time lengthens, this means as you get older you will have to adjust your schedule as your body’s ability to recover lengthens.
As long as you keep the recovery ride short and below 60 minutes there is no harm in replacing a rest day with a recovery ride. The recovery ride will help loosen up your legs and increase your circulation slightly. Though if you have limited time staying off the bike does no harm either. Remember both circumstances promote recovery and sometimes giving yourself time to sleep in rather than get up early for a 45-minute recovery ride can make an even bigger difference.