As I have gotten more candles on my birthday cake I have come to deeply value the balance between riding and resting. However, giving your body time to recuperate is not for those over 35, especially if you do high-intensity workouts. Training and riding hard will build endurance, however, ONLY if you also rest. You see: RESTING is when the body repairs and builds muscle: not in the middle of a workout. This concept took many, many years to finally sink in to my thick skull.
I have always been too hard on myself…
I want to do it all – all the time! There was a time when the only day I gave myself ‘off’ to rest was Friday and I would wonder why I couldn’t ride as hard as I wanted to on the weekend. I mean, what’s wrong with thinking that you are super-woman?? After a while, my body’s performance declined and I would become burned out (or get sick). I didn’t have a choice but to rest and I was constantly surprised how much better I performed after a few days off. It’s always been a fault of mine to push, and push, and push myself right to the limit to only wear myself down. After which came the struggle to get back to my ‘normal’ performance level: never understanding WHY I couldn’t be consistent. Well …. “duh”.
I am telling you now, my friends and readers: Allow Your Body to Rest. Looking back – I realize that I allowed fear of losing some level of fitness to justify why I didn’t want to rest. The reality was, I was losing fitness because I was doing too much.
If you do not build in rest time into your training routine you will break your body down and become more susceptible to injuries, illnesses, and other (potentially worse) issues. Over-training is a REAL thing, not just a buzzword. Our bodies perform amazing feats and can endure much more than we often realize. However, to constantly abuse it and not give it the rest it needs to repair and restore is just silly. After all: extensive hard exercise tears down muscles which then needs to be repaired in order to be stronger.
“The fallacy, however, is that we don’t actually get strong when we train, we become stronger when we heal from training. Outside of going so hard that one becomes injured much of the fatigue induced by a hard day can make us better if we allow ourselves to recover from that work.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD
The amount of rest required is entirely dependent upon the individual and the amount of exertion. A day off after a very hard ride or a race isn’t a bad thing. At most: an easy spin for an hour. Everyone’s combination of riding and resting varies based on what you did and how much you broke your muscles down, among other factors. It’s not a bad idea to have a conversation with your cycling mentor or a professional coach concerning the optimal ride / rest combo for you.
“When I later found myself in the world of pro cycling, … we discovered that athletes became stronger when they had at least one relatively easy day for every extraordinary day of training. At most, we wouldn’t try to do more than two or three days of hard training in a row without a complete day off or a very easy ride.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD
I’m still coming to terms with the concept of just taking several days off the bike to recover, even though I know I need it from time to time. I love riding my bike! However: it’s critical to get the rest you need to become stronger. It doesn’t work any other way. In yoga, we call this practicing self-care. I see very few people that actually practice self-care well. Instead I hear a lot of: “I suck right now” (heck, I’ve said it too!) and “I don’t understand why I’m so tired”. Keep in mind that it’s not just working out that puts stress on our bodies: life can throw other challenges our way that we also have to deal with. These additional challenges increase our body’s need for rest, even if it wasn’t a workout per se.
By experience, however, I have also learned that one cannot take many days off of the bike and expect to pop right back in at peak output! Resting is crucial, however, taking more than 2-3 days off of the bike and expect your body to need a ‘warm-up’ ride to get back into the swing of things. Don’t fret: you aren’t losing any measurable fitness by taking up to 5 days off but your body will need at least one day to limber up the muscles and get back into the rhythm of riding. This is why most professionals rarely take significant time off of the bike during race season.
If you practice self-care, you will thank yourself when you can still ride at 70+ years old… and remember why you are out on your bike to begin with. Don’t be as hard-headed as I have been about this; allow yourself to rest. Yes, it can be difficult because we like to be active. Yes, I understand all too well the potential fear of “what if I loose fitness”. It’ll be okay, a day off does not affect your performance. Please don’t confuse hot yoga with rest either! Sometimes you just need to do NOTHING that resembles a workout.
Buck up Buttercup – you can do it! It’ll make you stronger!
Who knew that finding the balance between riding and resting could be so difficult to do?
Rest so you can Ride more!