If you’ve been seriously training for any amount of time, you’re sure to have become familiar with the all-important Recovery Ride. Usually scheduled for rest days these ‘easy spins’ are simply intended to keep the legs fresh after a hard training block or a long weekend of racing. They keep the muscles loose and encourage blood flow in key areas.
There’s plenty to be said about the physiological benefit of recovery rides, but as an amateur cyclist, I think there is yet a more significant role these easy rides play, and it’s all mental.
Most likely, you don’t get paid to ride your bike. You get paid to work your REAL job, and then you head home to spend an hour or two on the saddle. You train for the weekend, for the regional crit series, or for cyclocross season. You don’t get paid for it, but you train hard anyways, because you know that if YOU’RE not out there training, your competition IS! You’re motived, so you put in the time.
The problem is ‘burn-out’. Invariably, if you train hard (which is completely relative to the athlete!) you will reach a point of mental exhaustion. It’s easy to become so focused on the training that your love of the sport is lost in the mix.
Here’s where the Recovery Ride becomes crucial. This ride is about YOU! This ride is for that kid inside of you that just wants to ride a bike. The Recovery Ride is a 45-75 minute appointment with your passion–a reminder of why you devote so much time to the sport. Without this perspective, you’re sure to burn out.
Here are a few suggestions for your next Recovery Ride:
1. Ride by Yourself
While it’s fun to ride with friends, you want to avoid ANY pressure to ride harder or lighter than you feel comfortable with at the time. Remember: you should be focused on your enjoyment of the sport! Riding in a group can serve as a distraction from this purpose.
2. Ride New Roads
Finding a new route is a good way to add some ‘spice’ to your training. For many of us, it was that very act of ‘discovery’ that caused us to first fall in love with the sport! Switch your cycling computer over to ‘Map view’–not only will it keep your mind off the metrics, it will keep you focused on the journey.
3. Ride How You Want
More importantly, just don’t think about your effort! Have a bit of extra ‘juice’ in the legs on a climb? Feel free to go a bit harder! Or don’t! It’s totally up to you. Just enjoy the ride.
4. Jam out to Music
While I won’t formally recommend using headphones while riding, music can be a GREAT motivator, and could be that ‘special sauce’ that your training needs. Pick something fun and upbeat! I have dozens of positive memories that I’ve made during recovery rides–sometimes the weather, location, music, and time of day all come together to make something special!
The most important thing to remember is that you HAVE TO DO IT! Just because it’s a Recovery Ride doesn’t make it any less important! By skipping just a few weeks of recovery rides, you really risk mental burnout. Make the decision that when ‘Easy-Spin Day’ comes around, you’ll actually get out there and spin! Your training will thank you for it, and it will have a lasting impact on your perspective and attitude.