Recovery ride seems a bit of an oxymoron
Obviously, your body needs time to rest and recover. I get that. But what's the idea behind a recovery ride, as opposed to just resting? If it works better, it works better, but if there is a good why at work here, what is it?
blah blah blah
I come from a running background and I agree that a "recovery session" where you are training is probably a misnomer. For example, studies show that runners who did not run for a number of days after a marathon race performed better in a running trial versus runners who did short "recovery" runs instead. I'm sure there would probably be a similar finding for biking a long road race...
One thing that seems to be shown from sport science is that high training monotony is much more stressful than modulating between hard days and easy days, even when the amount of time and overall intensity is the same over a certain time period. For example, say you rode 490 miles a week and averaged 20 mph overall (24.5 hours of ride time). If everyday you rode 70 miles at 20 mph, the training monotony is much more stressful than if you alternated hard and easy rides each day as well as different distances but still ended up with 490 miles over 24.5 hours to average 20 mph at the end of the week. One way of looking at it is that you can hammer a lot harder if you give yourself an easy day inbetween the hammerfests for your body to compensate and get stronger. If you spread your training out like peanut butter trying to go hard everyday, you instead wind up going only moderately hard everyday and get in a zone of fatigue without the ability to improve as much because your body doesn't have the chance to "catch up" inbetween.
However, training everyday helps keep up your cardiovascular system, and on "recovery" days you are still putting a "smaller" stimulus to improve your fitness which is better than "no stimulus". For two months I cut back a lot on my training, basically used to go out everyday but over this period I was down to only every other day at most. And I definitely am less fit than I was when training everyday! And I have not put on a single pound of weight, so it is not due to increased weight to drag around...
Usually if I need a day off I just take one, and am off the bike entirely. However, if I've gone really hard the day before and my legs are particularly sore or tired, I find a brief LIGHT spin session (often indoors with a TV show) really helps them. For lack of a better term it seems to 'open them up', though that's a phrase that is probably meaningful only to me, ie: not scientifically or medically informative.
If I do a recovery ride I tend to do it indoors as there seems to be too much outdoors - stimulus, hills, nice day, whatever - to distract me from the idea of going EASY and just spinning.
But I am far, far from an expert. YMMV.
You are correct in that it seems like an oxymoron. I don't know the biology behind the light session vs no session. Perhaps Koffee can voice in here. If I knew a muscle physiologist ...
It's ALL base...
Recovery from hard efforts is part of the adaptation process. But do most cyclists even train hard enough or ride long enough to even need recovery rides? I'd expect most of us get all the "recovery" we need.
just another gosling
Here are a couple of posts I've written on recovery rides:
Recovering when the season gets intense
How to recover faster after long intensive rides...
For this winter season I'm changing my focus and have put the weight training back in, but still doing the recovery rides as before. I've become interested in AT skiing, so I'll add that to the winter biking.
I've found that they help me when I am doing a lot of hard training (15 hours a week or more). A recovery ride had my legs less sore and more ready for the next block of training than taking the day off did. When I wasn't trainig quite so much, just taking a day off worked about as well.
Recovery in the sense of the muscles or recovery in the sense of getting rid of lactic acid in the tissues? Sometimes its both. For muscles, its rest. For the other it could be in the form of a short easy ride or even an altogether different activity like hiking or a slow jog. I heard that there's actually an active versus passive recovery. The compression material socks, tights, long sleeve tight fitting tops are the passive types.
Originally Posted by paperback rider