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Home » Cycling » With Cycling, if You Need Rest Days, You May be Doing It Wrong. Kinda.

With Cycling, if You Need Rest Days, You May be Doing It Wrong. Kinda.

April 2017
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38 days in a row, 1,076 miles, and we’re just starting to get into the good miles (50+ in a day).  

My average pace is between 17 and 18 mph this early in the season.  In May and June I’ll hit 19, easy.  Shedding all of the bulky clothing is worth 1 mph alone!

Now those are averages.  My fast days are closer to 22 mph, my slow days, 16.  My mediocre days are between 18 & 20 mph depending on my mood and who I’m riding with.  

Each and every day, I ride.  I only take a day off when the rain stops me.

I don’t take rest days, not because of a need to lose weight or even to ride daily.  There’s no need whatsoever. 

I ride every day because it’s fun.  I ride daily because riding makes me happy.  

I like to borrow from a phrase and modify it to say, “I’ll taper when I’m dead”.  If the pros can do it, and they can, then I can do it too, only slower.

On a bike, rest days are vastly overrated.  With running they’re almost indispensable but the question is how not why though, when pedaling to happy destiny.  It’s about having a good plan and sticking to it.  It’s about knowing, and sticking to, one simple concept; As amateurs, our easy rides aren’t easy enough and our hard rides aren’t hard enough.

I ride with a guy who is every bit as strong as I am but on most days I can wax the floor with him.  I have use of the perfect system that keeps me riding hard after more than a month straight while others struggle with two decent days in a row.

I plan my hard days out and ride easy accordingly around those days….

My friend rides willy-nilly, no planning.  When the mood strikes him, he rides hard, even if it’s the day before a planned tough ride.  If that wasn’t bad enough, and it is, he takes days off at the worst times too.

What I’ve learned over the years with cycling is that days off are just as detrimental, if not more so, than riding too hard before a big day in the saddle.  Taking a day off before a big ride is just about the worst thing I can do.  Taking a day off requires a day dedicated to spinning my legs back up just to get my legs to 100% so if I take a day off the day before a big ride, I’ll struggle the whole next day to keep up.

I find it better to ride easy before a big day than to take a day off.  Period, end of story.

Then there’s the dreaded hard ride before the hard ride.  I’d argue that the day off before the big ride is much worse than the back-to-back, but the back-to-back is bad enough if I’m not used to it.  Eventually I’ll be able to string four hard days in a row together though, by the end of the season, but I have to work up to it.

I’ll just get right to the schedule to simplify it, and also add that it’s been four years since I suffered any kind of injury that slowed me down (it didn’t stop me, just slowed me down)….

My hard ride days are Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday…  So, Monday is an easy day (15-17 mph average).  Tuesday is my fastest day (21-22 mph over 30 miles with the club).  Wednesday will me a mediocre or easy day (18-20 mph average depending on how my legs feel).  Thursday is an easy day.  Friday is mediocre and longer (17-18 mph, 30 to 40 miles).  Saturday and Sunday are hard, long rides, though we tend to take one of those long rides a little easier in the beginning of the season.

Monday comes and I do it all over again.  Two, three, four weeks in a row, it doesn’t matter.  Five weeks, even six.  I only get into distress when I try to do too much on those easy days, it’s simple as that.  

Interestingly, my wife was the only one who could get me to slow down enough to enjoy the easy days.  Going for easy rides that she could enjoy became my easy days and they’re two to three miles an hour slower than I would do on slow days a few years ago.  I truly believe it’s the slow days that made me faster.  In fact, I’m quite sure of this.  

I know this because I’ve tried every other combination I could think of eliminating the slow days.  One day off a week, two….  Nothing I could do had me feeling as good and as fresh as no days off with two or three slow days a week.

As the season wears on, and after 30 or 40 days in a row, I will take a day off for weather, even if it’s two days in a week.  When you ride as much as I do, riding in the rain isn’t all that necessary, and a day off now and again is kind of nice.  But only kinda.

Where this gets important is for those who do want to lose weight…  On a bicycle, they’ll be able to burn extra calories every day, rather than a few days a week.  Ride hard my friends.

UPDATE:  A friend pointed out in the comments section below that he has a few medical conditions that require rest days to recoup after a ride.  Because I’m a bit ignorant at times, I have a tendency to not take preexisting medical conditions into account in my posts… simply because I don’t have any.  This caveat must be taken into account.

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5 Comments

  1. Archetype says:

    More power to you Jim! This is a great way to keep fit and keep the demons at bay! I wish I could ride 5-6 days a week…

    I think this plan is truly dependent on ones physiological state and conditions. I simply could not ride every day. I think as we age there are certain mental and physical conditions we have little control over. Family genetics and predisposed related…etc.

    At nearly 52, my pinched neck nerve, my collapsed L5 and my arthritis just won’t allow it. After a hard ride with a small recovery the ne3xt day, I usually need a day or two for my body’s inflammation to come back to some sort of normalcy. After a hard ride, I’m pretty useless the next day. With a very achy back and joints.

    I have tried many different techniques and remedies over the past 14 years to alleviate pain and discomfort, to no avail. Unfortunately, my body is degenerating at a steady pace. The psoriatic arthritis is accelerating and very painful on certain days. It is only getting worse as I age. My neck and back pain ebb and flow, but are aggravated by riding many days.

    A careful and smart diet, sleep habits, stretching, yoga, etc have not yielded any better results. My bike setup is a compromises as well, accommodating my neck and back issues. But, I won’t stop riding until I cannot move at all. Even if I have to duct tape my hands to the bars and my feet to the pedals! 😀 Riding IS my salvation for sure!

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your arthritis, now that’s a tough one!

      I should add that point to my posts, man… that this only works if one doesn’t have preexisting medical complications. Please forgive my ignorance, brother. I apologize. Ride on, brother.

      • Archetype says:

        No worries Jim! Thanks for your well wishes, appreciated. hey, we all have things to deal with. Physically, emotionally, mentally. But we overcome or persevere…we Ride brother!

  2. This may sound like a stupid question but i’ll give it a shot. How are your rest days different from your hard days? Are rest days just turning the pedals over not caring about speed? Or do you have a certain speed you aim for? I find that my mind only has one gear and pretty soon on my “rest day” i am pushing all out. How do you make sure a rest day stays a rest day 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      This is an excellent question, and I have trouble with this myself. To put it simply, I cheat. I ride with my wife who really likes the slower days, she enjoys them. In turn, she keeps a leash on me.

      As for how I can tell the difference, an active recovery day is 16 to 17 mph average, very slow, very easy, 80-90 rpm cadence. Hard days are 20-22 mph and I finish trying to keep my tongue from getting tangled in the spokes. 😉

      One thing is for certain, I NEED those easy days. I’m able to ride much faster because of them.

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