Friday Group Ride #360

Friday Group Ride #360

Rest and recovery are important parts of fitness. Smart people tell me that. It says that in books. I believe it’s true. The problem is that I don’t rest well.

First, I depend on the chemical reactions that hard exercise produces. As a life-long depressive, I have found no therapy so effective as hard physical work. If I add copious doses of caffeinated beverage, I can be positively euphoric, but more often than not, a good ride, or run, or other similar self-pummeling puts me on an even keel for the day. To those of you who do not suffer the chemical imbalances many of the rest of us do, I cannot impressive upon you how valuable that even keel really is. It’s everything.

Second, I don’t rest well, because I rest too well. The same forces demons that drive me out the door, also conspire to leave me on the couch, once I’ve accepted the couch as an acceptable alternative for the day. The couch may as well be a deserted, tropical beach, waves gently lapping, cool breezes wafting, the cares of the world a smattering of wispy, slowly receding clouds on the azure horizon. If I have a beverage, too, well forget it.

In practical terms though, I’m 45-years-old. I need rest days.

Here is what my week normally (or at least theoretically) looks like:

Sunday – Morning pick-up soccer. I run until I can’t. I run some more. This is the most intense exercise day of my week.

Monday – Easy commute to work. Spin out the legs. No big deal. I’m tired, but I just do it.

Tuesday – Morning boot camp. One hour. High intensity. My legs are still wrecked from Sunday soccer, but they mostly do what I want them to. Coach kid’s soccer in the evening. Try not to sweat too hard.

Wednesday – Rest day. If it’s sunny, I sometimes do the easy commute again. You can’t waste sunshine in New England.

Thursday – Morning boot camp again. One hour. High intensity. I have my legs back under me probably. I also ride to work. Coach kid’s soccer again. Growing pretty tired now.

Friday – Rest day. Have to work, so the couch doesn’t present its normal challenge.

Saturday – Ride. Whatever I can manage given logistics (more kid sports), companions (who have kid sports), and energy level. Could be an hour. Could be 5 hours. More likely to be less than more.

I don’t know whether I’m resting enough or too much. Anyone with actual expertise could chime in. The rest of you should just answer this, our Friday Group Ride, how much do YOU rest? When? Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you just improv you’re whole fitness/ride routine? Do you think you’re overworking yourself? Or do you think you’re lazy? Be honest. And go easy on yourself.

Image: Chol1


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  1. Tom Milani

    I’m a dozen years older than you and I have one recommendation, which is probably impractical given your life circumstances: Naps. I try to ride to work or to the ballpark twice a week and do one longish ride with my wife on our tandem on Sundays. Play softball on Thursday. I consider myself active, but I don’t work hard enough at it or at the other things I should focus on. But I like to fall asleep to CSPAN and usually feel better after.
    Tom in VA

  2. Andrew

    Damn. I feel like I wrote those first two paragraphs.

    I suck at rest. I get hugely neurotic about my weight, losing fitness, etc. And I know it is totally irrational. And I suck at recovery rides. Sometimes I’ll get on the trainer, telling myself I’m just going to turn the pedals for an hour. And then I look at the power numbers, and I get pissed with myself for not working, and it turns into intervals. Outside, Strava comes into play- do I really want other people to see that I did just an hour at a slow pace with no climbing? That’s so lame….

    I have a problem.

  3. Jeff Dieffenbach

    I’m 52. I think I get my rest just about right (well, I could probably do to get more rest of the sleeping variety). Nothing scheduled, just the way that most of my riding isn’t scheduled.

    Sure, for any given week, I know that I’ll likely do either the Tue or Thu fitness ride and the Fri social ride (where you can elect to treat “social” as either literal or optional). Sat and/or Sun, I’ll do something a bit longer when I don’t have a big event on the calendar.

    Basically, though, I think that I’m pretty good at sensing a bout of over-training coming on and easing off the throttle. That said, no one’s ever really accused me of being the over-training type, and my CX and MTB results back them up on that.

  4. TomInAlbany

    Monday through Friday I try to do something every day whether it’s riding to work or going to the Y to work out or, sometimes, Y in the morning and ride at lunchtime.

    Weekends I typically do whatever the family is doing. I’ve only recently, last few weeks, started to try to get a ride in on a weekend. And, that’s the first to go if the kids have something going on – or my wife. I let her have first dibbs on the weekend.

    I don’t get enough sleep during the week – typically 6-6.5 hours. Saturdays and Sundays, I shoot for 8.

    I’m a bit obsessive about my weight so, i keep moving so I can keep eating. One day, I’ll lose that fight!

  5. AG

    Scheduled rest? Sorry…not computing. It’s all improv for me. In fact, people that have their rides and rest time scheduled are not really my kind of folks. One thing I have learned over the years is to not kill myself on a ride if I know I need to be present later that day.

  6. BAllenby

    The second paragraph resonates so closely with me, it’s spooky.

    I commute by bicycle an average of 4-5 days each week, about 26 miles round trip. This 100+ miles not only keeps my body healthy, it allows me to be a better father, and husband by keeping my mind in a good place. Building a ride into my commute allows me to justify the time, because otherwise, a good part of that would still be spent in the car. I try to pick up at least one other group ride each week and maybe a run or ride with my wife and girls to mix it up over the weekend.

    I found myself in a rut commuting at about 75% of my FTP (yes I commute with a power meter). Enough to break a sweat, but not really pushing myself in a meaningful way. It was always better than driving, but was starting to lose it’s ability to keep me going in a good way.

    This spring (I commute year round, but winter is not a good time to start new things on a bike) I started including “commutervals” on at least two of my rides. I usually shoot on something simple like 5 intervals of 3-4 minutes at 125% of FTP. Sometimes it’s a particular climb, or a stretch on a long flat bit of road that I know well.

    Accompanying my commutervals, I’ve started forcing myself to ride under 60% of my of FTP on recovery days. For me, this takes an amazing amount of mental focus (probably more than riding at high intensities). Some days, I can meet up with other slower riders and they help keep me slow. Some days, it’s really just a personal mind game all the way home.

    The balance of high and truly low intensity has made a big difference for me, resulting in legs that aren’t shot by Thursday or Friday and the ability to get in a good run or family ride over the weekend.

    My girls are getting older, and as they do, I’m sure sports practices, school actives (and a host of other things) will start cutting into my riding time. I’m hopeful that by continuing to hone these hi/low intensity elements to my commutes now, I can continue to take advantage of not only the physiological, but more importantly psychological, benefits of riding.

  7. Scott Gilbert

    I do 4-6 days in a row with only one day off the bike (track season is about to start). 2 of those days (not in a row) are 20 minutesx2 at or above threshold the entire time. One of those days is our recently resurrected Sunday group ride. I’m 54 years old and if I had to skip more than a couple days off the bike my back and legs would revolt against me.

  8. Michael

    I go whenever I can, since I know that I may not get to go out for a day, two days, a week, depending on my schedule. So rest? Yes, I get plenty. Riding, never enough. I can’t imagine having a schedule.

  9. Ethan

    Im a 27 year old triathlete, my rest days are relative. I take a “rest” from biking or running each day. I am pretty bad about keeping up with my seimming so I guess I sm resting 4 days a week with that lol. That being said the couch and a drink temp me from time to time and I will really rest, I love those days.

  10. Aar

    Weather dictates my schedule. I make sure to get in two hard rides per week – one long, the other fast. Otherwise, I get up in the early AM and ride when it is dry, walk when wet. Walking mornings are always rest days. My morning rides are either rest rides or workouts based around the two hard rides. Rest rides are easy spinning for 30-45 minutes. Workouts are 60-90 minutes either hard or intervals.

    I don’t think of myself as chemically imbalanced and rarely consume caffeine or alcohol. Yet, everything you write about rings true for me. Ride, walk or do a landscape/remodeling project and I have a productive, energetic day. Otherwise, the day almost gets wasted.

  11. Dave

    I’m a 55 year old retired guy that loves to “just” ride my bike.

    But like AG above, I’ve no need for a schedule. I ride when I want, how hard I want and rest when I want. I let my body, and how I feel at the time, dictate what I do. I’ve found with this outlook a new freshness and desire to ride that I haven’t felt since I started riding 27 years ago. I still like to push the pace and accumulate the miles, but all accomplished without a schedule.

  12. Geoffrey Knobl

    That’s a toughy. Oh, impress, not impressive in second paragraph. Well, when I rest, I feel guilty often. Exercise is uneven often. I get sick or have to ferry the kids and make a supper, it’s sometimes too late or there are even more chores to do and exercise won’t happen. But when the schedule is right, I get two days in the week of rest. The idea is to work MWF or TThF with either an hour to two on the trainer, outside and have fun pushing. I don’t know what your hard work is like but I know mines isn’t a full hour of real punishment but something like 30 to 40 of work, 10 to 20 of which is as hard as I can possibly go. When the kids stops school I’ll finally be able to ride to work again but at only 3.5 miles one way, it’s not exercise, at least not in the morning. Can’t afford to sweat going into work anyway. On the weekends I ride one day, run another or ride both. One of those weekdays is a run too, sometimes with an easy hour on the trainer (zone 2/3) then go for a 5k. I’m a slow runner anyway just trying to keep my knees working.

    But the rest days, well, I’ll mow often in the summer or work very hard in the garden in the spring. It’s exhausting physically sometimes but not the same as riding or running. In the mid fall through winter though, it’s complete lazy ass rest. With beer thrown in. And sometimes sausages and sweets. Thus the weight gain.

    If I had to guess, and I don’t know you so it’s likely way wrong, maybe three days of the week rest is too much? Throw in some easy exercise at least one day if not two and see if it helps. Just go for an easy fun ride or run. A slow 10k at 10 minutes per? A two hour ride with family or friends where you never try to kill yourself but just enjoy the scenery? A zone 1 to 2 ride in Zwift?

    I’m 54 now and my body is its lowest weight since high school. I too crave exercise and feel guilty if I don’t get it. It too keeps me from getting cranky (unless someone phones me frivolously during a ride) or depressed (for real – no fun). I know what you’re talking about. It also keeps the allergies at bay. It’s wonderful stuff. If my knees ever give out, and I’m working them now so they won’t when I’m old, I’m in big trouble. The only thing which keeps me as happy but not for as long, is great food and drink and sex. 😉

    When I was younger, even your age, I could work more intensely on less notice and get away with three days of rest in the week. But if I did exercise as much as I do now I would have been a great biker and runner. Sickness can wipe out any one week though and make the second week feel more exhausting too. So, ymmv.

    The big key is, listen to your body; it knows best.

    Good luck and have fun.

  13. Peter Leach

    When I started cycling – albeit at 49 years old and as part of rehabilitation following a complicated knee replacement – one of the first things that I took to heart was Fred Matheny’s statement: “When you go hard, go full effort. When you go soft, don’t feel guilty”.
    While I took it to heart, I wasn’t the best at ‘… don’t feel guilty’.
    Next, I tried the: “Small chain ring for recovery” approach.
    I was even worse at that.
    Now I’m faced with a long rehabilitation following a spiral fracture of my femur. With three attempts to repair it.
    I will be putting everything I can in to ‘ … not feeling guilty’, because my best effort is likely to be fairly soft by any standard.
    Fred’s advice:
    – build to four to seven hours a week;
    – no more that two consecutive days exercise;
    – gentle cross-training on rest days (yoga/pilates);
    – one long recovery ride a week (two hours plus).
    As Geoffrey said above: “Listen to your body, it knows best”

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