I am just starting out with cycling and it seems like it takes me a solid two or three days or more to fully recover from a ride, depending on intensity. Will this time decrease as I progress? Is there anything I can do to speed up the recovery? It seems like I am not going out with full energy because of this. Thanks in advance.
I'm not sure if recovery times will shorten, but, as far as I know, there are no practical reasons to go above 3 workouts per week, especially if you're just starting out. Higher training frequency does not result in faster gains.
Make sure that you get adequate protein and enough sleep.
If you keep over-doing it on rides to the same extent, then your recovery will take just as long no matter how fit you are. However as you get fitter you have to do more to over do it the same amount. So if you keep doing the same rides you're doing now then they'll get easier and you'll recover faster when you are fitter.
Try slowing down and riding at an easier pace, or doing shorter rides, sometimes. Eventually you should be able to ride 5-6 days a week, but those should be a variety of rides: short and intense, long and steady, slow and easy, etc. to work on different aspects of fitness.
Look up on Google " training within your aerobic threshold",or training articles by Dr Philip Maffetone and Ironman champ Mark Allen. You'll find lots of information on building your Aerobic base. Their recommendations are that you should train first for endurance. Use a heart rate monitor and for the first 12 weeks or more staying within your aerobic threshold. At first this will seem incredibly SLOW and you'll feel that your getting nowhere. But eventually your body will get stronger and stronger and your aerobic engine will get bigger.Your muscles and blood vessels will develop so they can feed your hard working muscles. Eventually you'll be riding faster and faster times but still keep your heart rate at a easy aerobic threshold pace.
The biggest advantage to starting out this way is that you'll be able to ride longer and since you didn't overstress your body your recovery will be quicker. (achy legs will recover quicker) You'll find out that since you can recover quicker you'll be more inclined to go out and ride. It will be more enjoyable!
Speaking from experience, I've been there. In my younger days I'd get home from work, hop on the bike and get a quick hour of riding in. I'd hammer as hard as I could thinking I'd get stronger quicker. WRONG All it did was wear me down. My aerobic engine was extremely weak and just training anaerobically increased the stress on my body. Eventually I rode less and less and had all kinds of excuses to not ride. Eventually I realized that I needed to get back on the bike and improve my health. Learning to be very patient and ride within my aerobic threshold got be back in shape. Now, if I want to hammer, I've got the endurance and conditioning to back it up.
Yes, ease it off. Use lower gears to climb. Keep your climbing cadence near 80. If you have to work hard to keep up cadence in your lowest gear, think about buying a cassette with bigger cogs. I think it's relatively important to ride more easily and more frequently early in the season for experienced riders, and even more so when just starting out. If you can't ride 5 days/week, you're going too hard. Ease off. Next year, think about a more structured approach. This year just ride often and ride for fun, not for strength and stamina. If anything, ride for distance. Distance makes you strong, even if you go easy. You can keep track of your weekly distance and gradually try to increase it. Try to ride to places you haven't seen in a car.
Ludkeh- Thank you! What you described is exactly what I've felt every time I tried to get fit and exercise. It's incredibly discouraging. Anyway, I just did some cursory reading on the Maffetone method and it seems to be what I'm looking for. my Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate according to his method is 151. I just ordered a heart rate monitor too. Thanks again for the info!
"my Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate according to his method is 151. I just ordered a heart rate monitor too."
Sorry to take this a slightly different direction than your original post, but I just would like to exhort you not to use a formula to derive your heart rate zones.
As an example, my identical twin brother's threshold heart rate is currently around 170 - mine is ten beats lower.
It's ok to use the formula as a starting point, but be sure to listen to what your body is telling you to adjust the zones.
As to your original question: Yes, it gets easier. It's also a matter of periodically pushing your body beyond its limits - sometimes it's surprising what can come out of it.
For me, I sometimes have great rides after four consecutive hard (for me) days. I used to avoid blocks like this because I was worried about not giving my body the time to recover, but now I react a little more to how I feel - I'll do consecutive days as long as I feel ok on the rides. Once I feel worn down on the ride itself (not before the ride - feeling tired before the ride is normal for me), I know it's time to plan for some rest.
Note that I've been riding reasonably seriously for a number of years, so YMMV.
I feel I should clarify myself a little; My training load is quite modest compared to some - A long week for me would be 12 hours on the bike.
I find that much of the training theory out there tends to be written/developed for people who are a lot more serious and do a lot more volume than I do. Doing four six-hour days in a row is very different from doing four one to two hour days in a row.
My main point is not to take anything you read too literally. Use your own experience to feed back into your training program: If you feel good on a ride, that probably means that you're ok to ride some more. If you feel like crap on a ride, it's time to take a rest.
Edit: Oh - and re-reading the sentence of mine you quoted - I'm not advocating a training plan where you always ride until you feel like crap and then rest. I'm advocating creating a structured plan, but not being afraid of scheduling several consecutive hard training days. Use excessive fatigue as an indicator that blocks should be shortened.
Last edited by ulrichw; 03-20-12 at 10:05 AM.
I have made a foray into cycling twice in my 48 years; the first time was in my twenties, and it grew sort of naturally from just wanting to get out and get some exercise. I started out with higher gears and lower cadence, which built my leg muscles, which grew into a faster cadence, longer miles, and higher cadence. My nutrition was pretty messy; back then, it was mainly about carbo-loading, and I did not know a lot about recovery nutrition. I would basically eat about three platefuls of pasta the night before a long ride, and that would be my fuel, but there was no concentrated effort at carb-fueling, then protein to recover muscle mass. After about a year and a half, I over-did it and messed up a knee (chondromalacia, which - along with a busier life - put cycling to the back of my priorities list).
My re-entry into it last year took more effort and patience: I used lower gears at a high cadence because of the knee problems, and it seemed to take forever to get the miles built back. After a month, I was only up to 10-12 miles at a time 4-5 days per week, with very little climbing. AFter two months, I finally got past 20 miles, and after 3 months, over thirty. By the end of the fourth month, I was able to ride over 40 miles at a time, and had raised my average speed from a sad 13.5 mph to 17.5 - not racing speeds, of course, but I was pleased with the improvement. I was very careful to get enough protein to help muscle recovery, and did not go crazy with heavy carbs, but made sure I has a good balance, with a lot of complex vegetable proteins, nuts, and fruits ( mainly apples and bananas).
I will generally ride 5-6 days per week, with three or four lower mileage rides (between 10 and 15), and on my two days' off work, I will go for the long rides - as long as I can go, but not at time-trial intensity.
Basis metabolism and response to training and nutrition varies from person to person, but my general advice would be to make sure and take one or two recovery days per week; to not try and go at full intensity every ride, but rather to vary - only doing the toughest climbing two or three days/week, trying to find some flatter geography to have some more intense endurance riding, and some just-fun rides, as well.
And watch your nutrition; you need to prepare for a ride with enough carbs for the energy you are going to expend, and when you get past a certain threshold (30+ miles for me), you will need to eat while you ride to be able to finish. When you return from your ride, try to drink chocolate milk, or even a whey protein/milk drink for recovery. If you are doing a lot of climbing or higher gears that tear into your leg muscle, protein is essential - I eat a lot of chicken breast meat, grilled salmon, almonds, Greek yogurt, and the occasional lean cut of beef steak when I am working muscles. What a lot of people don't understand- even in the modern age of nutritional fitness information - is that muscles are never "built" when you are exercising them, but rather being broken down. The building takes place later, when the tissue you have broken down during the exercise recovers and rebuilds. That means feeding your body with the raw material it needs, and getting sufficient rest. I frequently take a half-hour nap during the day if I am riding a lot, and make sure I get enough sleep at night, as well.
A few years back I cycled for maximum gain/maximum weight loss. I spent the rest of the day 6 days a week with low energy, but I did loose 10kg in 3 months. Then I injured my leg in an unrelated accident and was unable to cycle for several months. The weight just came back. This year I'm just cycling 20-30km every moring at a pace that doesn't leave me too tired. When it gets too easy I try and move the average speed up a few points until it starts to hurt just a little. So far its worked great. Taking baby steps and cycling before breakfast I've noticed a real improvement in my ability to cycle, and it leaves me with much more energy through the day.
On a Saturday or Sunday I'll push for 50-60km or until I feel like I'm going to die, but its not a good idea to do that too often or you lose the motivation to get up at 5am and ride.