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Cycling and Fit Recovery’s Definition of Time Off the Bike – When, Why and How Much

July 2015
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There once was a time that I was certain I needed regular time off the bike. At first I’d hoped it was one day every two weeks but I wound up struggling so last year I changed to once a week.

It’s always bothered me however, that pros don’t take days off, at least not in the true sense of the phrase. If they can go every day at a pace that would leave me a quivering pile of sweaty goo on the road, why should I be subjected to a day off?

The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me. Not because I mind a day off now and again, I don’t… What I do mind is taking sunny, warm, summer day off the bike just to get my day off done. That happened quite a bit last year. Worse, often I’d take a perfectly good Monday off only to have to ride in the rain (or even worse, take two days off) to get my miles in. Nice days are in short supply come November so if I have my druthers, I’ll take more time off once the snow flies.

I decided to make a change, to see if I could make it with as few days off as weather allowed.
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I started in May but really broke out in June with only one day off the whole month…
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I don’t stretch, I don’t foam roll, or do yoga, no massages (other than a back rub from Mrs. Bgddy now and again)… I just ride, 48 to 60 minutes a day during the week (two hours on Tuesday evening) and then I go a little crazy on the weekends.  I normally save my easy rides for the shorter days but other than that, I have no real cheats.

The trick has been to enjoy a slow day two or three times a week, and my slow days are slow, five or six mph slower than my fast days. No dead legs, no overuse injuries… and I’ve actually managed to get a little faster and stronger.  It’s working, I haven’t had one negative consequence and I’m no longer missing otherwise perfectly good days to ride.  Sure I get stuck from time to time taking a day off for weather or obligations, but I don’t have to watch a clear, sunny day go by, wishing I could ride instead of sticking to a schedule.

There are a few points I’d like to add.  First, cycling is not running.  There’s no way I could comfortably run every day, not like I can ride. Second, this post contains my experience only. I choose not to subscribe to the standard, “Thou shall take X number of days off” way of doing things. Not because I’m some fitness junkie, but because I love to ride my bike. Simple as that. Third, and this is written tongue-in-cheek, I realize I’m an exceptionally strong man and don’t expect anyone else in America, short of a pro cyclist, could possibly keep up with me and ride a bicycle every day for weight loss, fitness, or enjoyment (even though there are bike every day campaigns worldwide). If you have to listen to your body, just make sure it’s your body calling the shots, not your melon over-exaggerating every little niggle that troubles you.

Finally, before you head to the comments section to tell me about how I should listen to my body, I already do.  Mine says, “Gimme more big shooter”.

So, Fit Recovery’s definition of “Taking time off the bike” is now, “What’s that? Those words don’t have to hang out in that particular order, ya know?”

UPDATE:  As an afterthought, there is one last important point that I should have made in this post…  I’ve tried the “no time off” approach before and failed miserably.  Specifically, my easy rides were way too fast.  On a recovery ride I was averaging north of 18 mph, only 4 mph slower than my best pace with a small group (less than 20 cyclists).  I ended up with what we like to call “dead legs”…  Didn’t matter how hard I tried, I had a tough time keeping pace once the hard days came around.  It was classic over-training.  Today, I’ve got another two years worth of miles on my legs and dropping the slow rides down another couple of miles per hour has helped considerably.  Also, with the base I have now, I could go faster.  I could do more but I don’t want or need to.  I am, without a doubt, in an excellent spot where I’m fit, trim, and happy.  That’s all I ever wanted with fitness in the first place.

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6 Comments

  1. PedalWORKS says:

    I ride most days, varying the length and intensity. The only time I take a day off is after a particularly long ride. Even then I sometimes like to get back on the bike to loosen the legs up. I used to subscribe to the day off philosophy when I thought of myself as an athlete in training. Now, like you, I just like riding, finding new routes, testing myself on hills and flats, and being in the wind and sun. My body tells me when to go easy or hard but always says get on the bike.

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    No stretching or rolling. I wonder if you will have that same philosophy in 15 -20 years. 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      Probably not, but at 45 I’m doing well so far… Of course, believe it or not, I ride a lot less than a few of my retired friends and they don’t roll or stretch either (and a couple are 20 years older than I am)… Maybe we’re a lucky few… ?

  3. 67 and gave up stretching years ago, don’t know what rolling is. Still mostly fit & moving well.

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