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How the Cycling Enthusiast can [should?] work Rest Days into Their Schedule…

March 2017
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My name is Jim and I am a cycle-holic.  It has been, let’s see now… carry the one… twenty-two days since I took a day off the bike.  If the weather and my schedule hold up, it’ll be April before I take another.

I ride each and every day unless the weather or my schedule makes a ride impossible.  Let’s just say that’s rare.

It has also been approximately five years since I had any kind of injury that forced me to take time off as well.  The issue was a saddle that was too wide.  Once I had the proper saddle, I was back to riding in a matter of hours.

This doesn’t mean I don’t do rest, I do.  According to everything we hear the body must be given its rest time.  The trick is in your definition of rest – to bum a line from an ex-president, though he was questioning the definition of the word, ‘is’:

Rest (rest) – N0un:

noun

noun: rest; plural noun: rests; suffix: -rest; suffix: -rests

  1. an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity.

An instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity.

As they say; Bingo.  My rest days are slower, easier rides.  They’re the bike rides I use to look at the world that I usually ignore because I’ve got my head down and I’m trying like hell to catch my hair on fire with the effort.  Where my hard days are often spent well north of 20 mph, my easy days are spent cruising around with my wife at 16-ish.

While I realize 16 mph is still very fast to most, to me it’s not.  I actually have to concentrate so I don’t speed up.   This is, of course, all relative.  What may be fast to me will be slow to many others – the point is not to get into a pissing match to define “fast” (because nobody can win that, everyone ends up wet).  The point is that we find our own “rest” pace that’s significantly slower than our best effort.

Now, one important point to note:  I do not count the calories burned on rest days toward what I eat.  See, because I’m faster than average, my tracking software tends to look at a 16 mph ride as an actual cycling event.  It’ll suppose that because I rode 16 miles in an hour, I burned 800 or 900 calories.  The reality is, my heart rate barely gets over 100 bpm on a slow day so I therefore maybe burned half that suggested by my app.  Doing this helps keep me lean.

Also, and this is a really important point, I time my slower “rest” days to work with my fast days.  For instance, I rode a double on Sunday – 32 miles in the morning, 17 in the evening.  On Monday my legs were tired so I took it easy because I knew I’d be full throttle on Tuesday at the club ride.  In fact, even if I’d felt good and strong I’d still have ridden easy on Monday just so I could have a full tank for Tuesday.

The point is, a rest day doesn’t have to be a day spent laying on the couch doing nothing.  Actually, I recommend against doing that for cyclists…  It takes too long to spin the legs back up after a full rest day.  Active rest, or “not being lazy” is actually where it’s at for me.  One thing’s for sure:  I can’t argue against what I do – five years is a long time to go without an injury of any kind.  It works if you work it.  I won’t if you don’t.

Now here’s the why:  The more I ride, the harder it is to come back quickly after a day off.  My legs feel sluggish the day after a true day off.  So much so that it actually takes a day to get my normal strength and power back.  If, on the other hand, instead of taking a day off, I ride very easy with a relatively quick cadence, the next day my legs feel fresh and revived.  I imagine there will be purists out there who will argue that “the body needs its time off”, that I need days off, etc. etc..  I get it.  I just leave that for the winter and off-season.  Or rain days.  Rain days are good for rest.

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6 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    Don’t even mention the taper…

  2. Most people don’t ride hard enough on their hard days and ride too hard on their recovery days.

    A gentle spin is better than a full day off I recon, as long as you keep it really easy. I take full rest days, but mostly because I’m lazy. I usually feel better if I do a short gentle spin instead of a total day off.

  3. Sandra says:

    Yup! Active recovery. 🙂

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