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Just How Much Cycling is Too Much Cycling for the Body to Handle?

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I know, you read that Title and thought to yourself, “Well self, I’m in for an even-handed look at exactly how much cycling is too much for the body to handle”. See, that’s because you know me as an even-handed, level-headed kind of guy.

The answer is very simple, and while I could give you a very simplistic algebraic formula to figure out just how much the body can handle, a lot like the equation to figure out how many bikes one needs, it ends up working out to; more miles than you’re currently riding.

That’s neither even-handed nor level-headed. It isn’t right, either – though it’s close.

The proper number of bikes in one’s stable is said to be N+1, N being the number of bikes currently in one’s stable…

My friends, I don’t care what equation you use, that’s enough bikes for someone who doesn’t have a personal mechanic to take care of all of those freaking bikes! Once you figure in my wife’s four bikes, my kid’s bikes… well folks, at some point you just have to say someone can stick that formula where the sun don’t shine!

The same could should be said for some over-simplified formula that says dryly, “Um, more miles” – as true as that could be, there’s no need to be obnoxious about it, eh? See, mileage is finicky. If I can ride twelve miles a day, surely I could do fifteen, and if I could do fifteen, why not twenty? Then let’s kick it up a notch on the weekends, and shoot for between 120 and 160 total miles for Saturday and Sunday.

How about days off? I’ve taken two so far this year. January 15th and last Friday for my wife’s birthday. Simply put, I don’t burn out (or at least haven’t yet). On the other hand, I’d rather not find out what it takes to burn out…

I would argue all day long that early in one’s foray into cycling, days off are a necessity. Building one’s fitness up, and more important, getting one’s bikes set up to work for their body, taking time off helps the body transform until one doesn’t need time off any longer. I simply don’t need days off like I used to, nor would most people.

I got this wacky idea a few years ago that if there were people who could ride 70,000+ miles in a year, riding as many as 200 miles a day, each and every day, why couldn’t I ride fifteen or twenty without days off? The pros, in the middle of the biggest bike race in the world, still spin on a trainer for a few hours on their rest days (two in the 21-day race)… What is all of this hub-bub about days off?

My friends, put simply I have been unable to find my limits because there aren’t enough hours in a day.

While I do run into tired days and days that are packed with too much to shoehorn in a ride, it’s rare that I am required to take a day for physical reasons. For the tired days I simply ride slower than normal, say 20-25% slower, and I’m fine.

Now, for those who have stuck around this long, I’m going to go somewhere dark, somewhere I normally won’t tread…. When we read tips and articles related to fitness, almost to a ridiculous degree, rest days are pushed as a matter of requirement yet we hear so often of people who push themselves to extremes – why the disparity?

It’s either, I need to take between one and three days a week off, or there are people out there who can go 70,000 miles in a year – or the pros who can go 21 of 23 days at close to max effort and still choose to spin their legs up on their two rest days. What gives?!

For other activities like running, lifting weights, activities high on impact, there’s no doubt the body needs recovery time. For cycling? My friends, if attention is paid to proper nutrition, electrolyte replacement, active recovery days and above all else, bike set-up and equipment, days off go from “I need a day off” to “I’ll take a day off next week”.

My answer is, “I don’t know, how much time do you have?”

I’ll leave you on this note; Many people like to say “listen to your body”. While I don’t disagree, when it comes to cycling I would add a little “don’t sell yourself short” to the saying: “Listen to your body, just make sure it knows you’re the boss.”

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4 Comments

  1. Brent says:

    There are actually two answers to the question of how many bikes is the right number. Yes, “N + 1” is one of them. The other is “D – 1,” where D is the number of bikes that will cause your wife to leave you. But since you’ve co-opted your wife, in your case, the value of “D” is probably pretty high. You’re a lucky man!

  2. Manu Stanley says:

    For people who love cycling, I think there is no such thing as ‘too much cycling.’ I’m grateful that I have reached a point where I get down from my bike, I think loudly that I couldn’t cycle more because of fatigue, lack of time or whatever XYZ reason. But still it is a sin to think that I cycled too much. One should look at it as one’s own personal choice or limitation, than an overdo of something you love. Isn’t it so, brother? 🙂

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