Recover to ride – Part 1

Michael Guilford Coaching, library

The aim of this series of articles is to get you thinking about recovery. Regardless of whether you already have a coach, there is probably still room for improvement in your recovery.

In 2014 I decided I wanted to push my cycling to a more competitive level. I had a flexibility with my work to train 15-20hrs per week, but I was hitting brick walls in training and racing due to fatigue. My coach/mentor (Scott Bugden) helped me to moderate and vary my training in order to avoid these destructive levels of tiredness. I started to pay attention to work/life factors in training, vary training and progress sessions gradually. Now I can train more consistently, in terms of training load per week and the specificity of training. Learning about recovery has taken me from being so exhausted I can’t stay awake in the afternoon, to using recovery in races to help improve specific tactics.

Why do we need recovery?

Recovery is the time set aside in between training and/or competition, with the purpose of adapting to stimulus and improving or maintaining performance. Without adequate recovery your well-being, energy expended in training will be wasted, physical adaptions will be stunted and you will struggle to learn new techniques and tactics.

When? How much?

I have split recovery periods into three categories:

  • Macrocycles –  scheduled over weeks, months and years
  • Mesocycles – scheduled over days
  • Microcycles – subtle periods of recovery, in minutes or seconds

Let’s start by focusing on macrocycle recovery. Every cyclist I have worked with has learnt the importance of macro recovery. One rider I coached had serious injuries from a crash which put them out for a year or so when they came back to training they were less fatigued and were able to progress their training by maintaining effective recovery.

There are two disciplines that form a good basis for managing recovery:

  • Monitoring
  • Following a routine

If you want to progress the effectiveness of recovery then you need to monitor how you are responding to stimulus, with respect to training/competition and life/work stressors. In my opinion, this must include some subjective feedback. This is how I monitor cyclists recovery:

  • Sleep score (1-5) – sleep quality and amount
  • Alertness  score (1-5) – how alert you feel during the day
  • Feel good factor  (1-5)- how you feel physically during training or during normal activities
  • Comments- How you found the training session. what was difficult? what was easy? Information about other factors (life/work) that are affecting how you feel.

This information is all subjective, but it allows you to make much more objective reliable judgements. If you don’t use detailed monitoring like this, it will be difficult to make reasonable judgements due to bias towards your current feelings.

A routine is a starting point to structure your recovery. As you progress in your discipline you will find what works best for you and you will alter the routine. This is what I suggest as a starting point:

  • 1-3 high-intensity sessions per week (including racing)
  • 5-6 days training 1-2 days recovery
  • 2-3 weeks focused training 4-7 days recovery

As I am writing this I am following a routine, I write for 10mins then 5mins of strength exercise. The variation of stimulus allows me to focus more intensely for the 10mins, and be more effective.

Read on to Part 2 to see how you can make your recovery competition/discipline specific.

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My blog is all about gaining insight on performance and learning, in a forward-thinking way. So if you have a different viewpoint, or want to discuss the topic, find me on Twitter @rideaboutuk