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Old 08-05-07, 03:20 PM   #1
Yen
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Complete rest vs. active recovery

We went on our long Saturday ride yesterday. We ate a bowl of oatmeal before we left. I felt great and was able to do the gradual 4-mile climb with less exertion than the day before. 12 miles later (1 hour 15 minutes on our heavy hybrids), we stopped to eat a banana and drink more water. At about the 20-mile point, we stopped at the LBS for the bike adjustment and while we were there I test-rode the FCR mentioned in the other post. I noticed I felt very hungry in the shop (normally, I eat small, frequent meals all day). After we left the shop, my legs felt dead. We were on a flat street and could not get my legs to go so I finally insisted we stop to eat the oatmeal raisin cookie we took and drink more water. We continued on and stopped at the bagel shop where we split a bagel w/peanut butter, then went home. We rode 28 miles (our longest so far... we add a few each week). We ate a good lunch, stretched, and soon I felt terrific again. I thought that today would be a complete rest day.

But today, I'm considering an active recovery ride tonight. My leg muscles are still sore but not uncomfortable.

My question: When do you decide to take complete rest (no riding at all) vs. a recovery ride the following day? I know some soreness is OK, but if it is accompanied by exhaustion and fatigue that's a signal that a complete rest day is in order. But leg soreness only? Seems to me an easy recovery ride is a good thing to do.

I'm curious to know your experience with this and if you've noticed any impact on your progress when you take a recovery ride vs. a rest day, if any.
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Old 08-05-07, 03:33 PM   #2
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I take a gentle recovery ride after a hard ride, except if my body tells me not to. I am a great believer in listening to your body - real carefully. I don't find any "rules" that fit my situation, so I figure it out for myself each time.

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Old 08-05-07, 03:35 PM   #3
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But leg soreness only? Seems to me an easy recovery ride is a good thing to do.
I agree--but avoid the temptation to take it up a notch (maybe a male thing) as you loosen up. If you're into heart rate training keep it in zone one/two.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:00 PM   #4
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After a long ride on a Saturday, I usually take a rest day on Sunday. If it was a really long ride on Saturday, I may not do an after-work ride until Tuesday.
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Old 08-05-07, 05:12 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone.

Doctor J: How long is "long"? For everyone, that's different.... but in general would you say beyond 20, 40, when you are very tired, ....

I ask because I've read that after an intense or strenuous ride, do an active recovery (or zone 1) ride the next day.
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Old 08-05-07, 05:22 PM   #6
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My question: When do you decide to take complete rest (no riding at all) vs. a recovery ride the following day? I know some soreness is OK, but if it is accompanied by exhaustion and fatigue that's a signal that a complete rest day is in order. But leg soreness only? Seems to me an easy recovery ride is a good thing to do.
If I'm having difficulty in sleeping, heart rate seems erratic and considerably higher than normal, or if I'm ill with more than just a cold.
or
something else comes up that demands my attention.

otherwise I always try to get in at least 'recovery' rides. Sometimes it means more than one day of recovery. Sometimes even a whole week.
If the legs feel sore or 'wooden', the best thing for me is a good recovery ride.

you've got a healthy appetite! its not a bad thing, especially if you can still maintain weight while eating that much.
I found out on my recent century that I may be 'shorting' my calorie intake these days. Used to be in younger days that I always 'performed' better keeping the calorie intake to the lower side. And I stayed with that as I've aged.
This past century, because the frequent 'rest stops' (4 counting lunch) allowed me to 'pig out' - at least compared to what I normally eat during a 100 mi. ride. Gotta say it was obvious I rode way better through the whole 100 than I have when using the old fuel parameters. Laughingly told my ride buds at the start that I was planning to 'gain weight' on this century. Didn't do that, but eat prolly double what I nomrally might and certainly rode better than I ever have.
From now on my mantra will be "suck every wheel! - keep eating!" OOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMmmm...
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Old 08-05-07, 07:48 PM   #7
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I take a rest day every week. If I have a century or very arduous ride I do a slow easy ride of at least 15 miles the next day. BUt I agree with DNVR that there are no hard rules and you should listen to your body. I believe in pushing yourself, but at 50+ only by a little, I never push myself "to the limit". My motto in cycling, winter skiing and kayaking is "enjoy today for a better day tomorrow".
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Old 08-05-07, 08:29 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone.

Doctor J: How long is "long"? For everyone, that's different.... but in general would you say beyond 20, 40, when you are very tired, ....
I agree that "long" is a relative term as it pertains to cycling. For me a nice long ride would be 50+ miles or so. A really long ride for me would be 70+ miles. For the randonneurs, my "long" rides are just chip shots.

Thus far, I've had good luck by taking a day or two off after a long ride, but I'll hasten to add that I'm still learning. Usually, any soreness in the derrière, legs, hands, feet etc. after a long ride is gone after a good night's rest.

At this point, I'm not sure of what a recovery ride is supposed to accomplish, physiologically, chemically etc. Perhaps there is good scientific/medical data to support the idea of the recovery ride, and I'm not aware of it (which would not be unusual).
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Old 08-05-07, 09:02 PM   #9
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Speaking of recovery, naps, beutiful naps, are good too.
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Old 08-05-07, 09:42 PM   #10
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Easy ride to keep the legs moving, or a good long easy paced walk. You need to work the "crud" out of our muscles. After long, hard (for me) rides on sunday, I'd work Monday and my legs would be a little tired, but not sore anymore by noon. I'm a mailman and walk.
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Old 08-05-07, 11:50 PM   #11
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Yen, as a financial side trip from saving for your new Giant....you might consider getting a cheap trainer for indoor or garage use. While boring to ride (some people put a tv in front) they are good for controlled rides where you can dial in the amount of effort, high or low, you want to use. No variables like wind, traffic, road surface, etc. Not like real riding, but very useful. Good for recovery rides and for recovering from an injury because of the more total control and you can always hop off and go get some ice, etc. Not to mention coping with rain, darkness, limited time, etc.

The way we urge each other to buy stuff, you'd think we all got a commission for sales.
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Old 08-05-07, 11:54 PM   #12
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At this point, I'm not sure of what a recovery ride is supposed to accomplish, physiologically, chemically etc. Perhaps there is good scientific/medical data to support the idea of the recovery ride, and I'm not aware of it (which would not be unusual).
Usually after a long or particularly hard ride muscles stiffen and have some soreness (duh). The recovery ride is to stretch the muscles, get blood flowing in your legs but not overtax them. Can't produce medical data, but I read that there is residual lactic acid in the muscles that can be reduced with recovery rides if you keep them sufficiently easy. Spin don't mash is the goal in recovery. Based on your fitness, recovery rides don't necessarily have to be short or too slow, just easy.
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Old 08-06-07, 05:59 AM   #13
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I prefer complete off the bike rest after doing a hard ride. I also don't believe in riding 7 days a week for the same reason, your muscles need to rebuild and working them will delay this. But try doing it both ways and see what works best for you. For me 1-2 days rest is optimum to put me in the best shape, I don't usually take more than a day but I have done this enough times to know that my riding after that period is much better than 1 day off or recovery riding. Going over 2 days starts to degrade my performance.
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Old 08-06-07, 07:19 AM   #14
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I noticed that bike racers recommend structured recovery. (no discussion from me there)
I never do formal races but push my limits. As is said above, I listen to my body. There is no point in getting injured. That can be done and I have done it.
OTOH, I bike nearly every day at modest speeds. There is no need to take days off biking if you are within your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is of course very subjective.
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Old 08-06-07, 07:31 AM   #15
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One of the things I do is to keep track of my resting heart rate. Its actually my sleeping heart rate. After a long ride the body sometimes needs time to rest and will let you know. First the lactic acid buildup in the muscles and even more important for me is the heart rate at rest.

At full recovery, the heart rate will reach its low. After a strenous workout, the heart rate may escalate a bit, say from 55 beats per minutes to 62 bpm.
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Old 08-06-07, 09:53 AM   #16
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I perfer a gentle recovery ride unless I'm so physically destroyed that I won't be able to ride safely. For example, last year I burned myself out on one particularly difficult ride and the next day, when getting ready for the recovery ride, I couldn't find my helmet (despite just having it in my hands a few seconds earlier) and could barely keep my balance to throw my leg over the top tube. Additionally, I wasn't hungry and had a hard time forcing myself to eat breakfast or drink before getting ready for the ride. These were an indication to me, that I needed not to get on the bike.
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