April 26, 2016
Training. A lot of attention is given to training. Intervals. Sets. Distance. Power. Time. Speed. Strava. Zwift. TrainerRoad. Training is like a first born child: showered with attention.
Recovery. Not a lot of attention is given to recovery. What's done between workouts. What's done to improve training. Recovery is like the runt of the litter: lost and forgotten.
Well guess what? Training and Recovery are twin siblings. They're equal. You can't have one without the other. Each enables the other. Call them Schwarzenegger and DeVito, big and little, handsome and ugly...it doesn't matter: training and recovery are equal in importance.
Proper coaching and training spends time balancing training AND recovery. Training isn't just training. It's training AND recovery.
It's spring, the weather's improving, and a lot of our WattsUp athletes are taking their bikes onto the road on the weekends (while still coming to class during the week). And we're noticing some interesting findings. A rider rides hard on Sunday (as an example), and they're unable to perform the Tuesday morning WattsUp workout as it's intended to be performed. They're tired. 48 hours after their Sunday ride, and they're still tired. Mentally, they come into Tuesday morning's class ready to ride. But physically, they're still recovering. If we couldn't measure/observe their power numbers in class, we wouldn't otherwise know that the athlete was tired. But when you can see that their power is down 10, 20% or more than what's called for, it's evident to them and us that the athlete is tired and needs more rest.
It might take 72 hours (i.e., three days) before recovering fully from a hard workout. Three days!
(Note: There are some riders who are at a high level of training and have a long history in endurance sport who recover faster. Some who can do successive days in a row of hard training. But they are few and far between and aren't the typical WattsUp rider. But even they need recovery sessions.)
Some, a lot of, WattsUp athletes can 'only' get in two quality rides per week. With the rest of their riding in each week being recovery in nature. And that's okay. That's smart. And realistic.
Doing three, four, five hard group/club rides a week is simply too much for 95% of the athletes out there. It doesn't allow enough time for recovery. Sticking to this gruelling routine will invariably lead to burn out by mid summer, declining performance, and declining enjoyment.
Recovery rides should be recovery. Dead easy. Guiltily easy. Recovery rides are best done by oneself or with a buddy who understands the purpose of the ride. If you average 30 to 35 kph in a hard group ride, for example, your recovery rides should be 20 to 25 kph. That easy. There's nothing wrong with going slow, deliberately so. It'll make your next hard ride with the group that much better. And your season will last that much longer.
Athletes at WattsUp have a leg up on their competition, in that they can quantify if they are recovering properly or not. When an athlete knows their power-based training zones and train consistently, they come to know how they feel at each power level/zone. How hard their breathing is, how their legs feel, what their heart rates are, etc. When they come to a workout and find that at any given zone they feel like they're working harder than usual, they know that they are tired. Off. Fatigued. Sluggish. And they can adjust their training accordingly and opt for a recovery session. That's smart training.
Don't be afraid to include recovery riding into your program. You'll be better off for it.