7th Rule of Saturday Cycling: the value of Recovery Rides

IMG_0401Today’s rule about Recovery Rides is quite a hard one for me to grasp but it’s important I do.  In my eagerness to train for next year’s Coast to Coast I keep grabbing any opportunity to cycle in the belief that the more I do, the fitter I will become.  I push myself to ride up hills that I know as hard as I can.  When riding on the flat I alternative between spinning a high cadence and pushing a high gear.  And yet the real purpose of this Recover Ride was more about my general well being.  From my experience as a moderately successful runner, I would really benefit from such a ride.

What are Recovery Rides?

The principle purpose of a Recovery Ride is to allow your legs to spin a little without too much effort or strain.  Don’t use it for trying to build your strength, power or speed.  Simply allow your legs to enjoy themselves at an undemanding leisurely pace. Don’t tackle any big climbs.  Just enjoy going for a cycle ride, for the joy of it.

Recovery Rides allow your blood to circulate thoroughly through all your veins, arteries and capillaries in bringing nutrients to where it’s needed.  They also allow the body to repair itself in whatever way it needs to and rebuild itself to become a little stronger.  Such rides also continue to promote good sleep where the body carries out most of the repair work.  Recovery Rides are especially important for cyclists who train hard most days of the week.  Pressing on with too much hard cycling is counter-productive if its without any rest.

The pace of a Recovery Ride naturally depends on the fitness and ability of the individual cyclist.  Imagine a scale from 0 to 10, this represents your effort.  Normally you train at 7 or 8 and if you race you’ll be around 8 to 10.  Recover Rides can be around 4 or 5 (some may suggest 2 or 3).  Another way of illustrating this is to maintain a lower heart rate – perhaps 100 to 120bpm – and where you could easily have a reasonable conversation.

The stress relieving Recovery Ride

It’s true that most cyclists and runners will value Recovery Rides (or Runs) as being there for physical reasons.  And yet we mustn’t gloss over the value of a gentle cycle ride in terms of our emotional well-being, or our mental health.  For a variety of reasons, this last week has been particularly testing for me at work.  Forgive me for not going into the details but I can say I have much on my mind because of work.

Often when I’m in this situation I find a good run will blow it all away.  That still remains true but I have found cycling also does the trick but in a slightly different way.  This morning I decided to have a gentle amble through the quiet lanes of Hertfordshire; lanes that I know well from commuting and not from leisurely cycling through them and enjoying everything around me.

My pace was fairly gentle as I averaged 14mph and didn’t tackle any challenging climbs (not many of these in Hertfordshire anyway!).  It was an opportunity to relax and unwind, to mull a few things over and a chance to get some daylight.  Naturally I had a nice little dose of endorphins to make me feel great and I kind of expect this is a subdued way when compared to running.


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