Rest and Recovery
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Rest and Recovery

You can only train as hard as you can rest.

Rest is good. If you feel tired you probably are tired.

Recovery between sessions is not all about the duration, intensity and physiological effort of your cycling sessions.

Recovery is influenced by many other factors. Simple influences may be diet, hydration and sleep. More complex issues concern work and family stress. You need to be aware of the influence of your individual lifestyle on your recovery. If it is clear that you are not over-training then look at lifestyle issues for the cause of any deterioration. If you are in a period of heavy work or family stress then reduce the number of training sessions and, both the duration and intensity of the sessions.

A maximum of 3 sessions per week with a full 24 hours between each one is recommended.

Sessions in your Recovery and Zone 1/Zone 2 should be sufficient to maintain fitness in the short term and help manage recovery and reduce stress.

Illness

Training whilst ill is not recommended. Sometimes deterioration in performance is a precursor to illness - STOP TRAINING – You will recover quicker with rest.

When you restart ease back into training with some training sessions in your Recovery to Zone 1 and Zone 2 heart rate and power training zones.

The Recovery, Zone 1 and Zone 2 Rule

In periods of illness, injury or stress never exceed training zones Recovery/Zone 1/Zone 2 for any session. Limit the session to less than 45’. This is a short term rule only. 3 sessions per week at low intensity/short duration is insufficient to maintain a high trained status so if recovery is prolonged a reassessment of your training zones may be needed.

Under recovery

Under recovery is the main reason why cyclists under perform or deteriorate. The traditional view has been 'if it’s not 'hard’ it hasn’t done any good’. Continual 'hard’ training leads to under recovery, illness, injury, over training and under performance. A good training program balances duration, intensity and recovery to maximize physiological adaptation and race performance.

Heat/Cold/Humidity

Don’t misinterpret sessions in extreme environmental conditions. Heat and/or high humidity in particular will have a marked influence on your performance and recovery. Heart rate will be elevated significantly and power or distance will be reduced. Do not take this as an indication of deterioration – adapt your cycling session to the conditions.

Neuromuscular and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

It should be noted that heart rate is measuring the cardiovascular effects of training – it does not measure neuromuscular fatigue or muscle soreness and stiffness.

Whilst training sessions in Training Zones 4-6 will promote race specific neuromuscular adaptations heart rate is not a direct measure of the neuromuscular fatigue. When considering your recovery needs and planning the balance of your training program these additional recovery issues need to be included.

Neuromuscular fatigue can be defined as 'fatigue representing the decline in muscle tension capacity with repeated stimulation’. Commonly this manifests itself in an inability to achieve a sub maximal or maximal exercise or training response. The exact causes of neuromuscular fatigue are unclear.

Muscle and stiffness can persist for several hours whereas muscle soreness (DOMS – delayed-onset muscle soreness) can appear later and last for a number of days. There are a number of direct causes of DOMS such as minute tears in muscle tissue and overstretching.

Neuromuscular fatigue and muscle soreness and stiffness extend the recovery period required before the body is ready for the next training session.

The benefits of measuring recovery

How to measure recovery is beyond the scope of this Training Guide – however there are many benefits to measuring recovery:

  • Detect early signs of overtraining or illness
  • Optimize training load by finding the balance between training load and recovery
  • Evidence based support for critical coaching decisions
  • Record individual reference values e.g. during off-season when the body is recovered
  • Check the recovery status during hard training periods
  • Check recovery status when subjective feelings and fitness level indicates poor recovery
  • Make sure that the body is recovered sufficiently before a new hard training period

The link between Training Zones and Recovery

It is important to recognize that a Training Zone is also an indication of the Rest and Recovery period needed before the next training session (and therefore fatigue is linked to the duration and intensity of a training session)

  • Well timed rest is one of the most important factors of your training
  • The effectiveness of a training session can be negligible or even detrimental if you do not include sufficient rest and recovery and periodization into your training program.
  • Your body needs time for recovery after a single high intensity session or a hard training period of several days or even after a low intensity but long cycling session
  • Without rest your body’s adaptation to the training stimulus will not occur. In the worst case training will lead to exhaustion and a state of overstress otherwise known as overtraining or under recovery.

A Training Zone identifies the general exertion level of your training.

During training, fatigue is temporarily increasing with recovery starting immediately after the session is completed. With recovery performance rises above the pre-training level because the body is preparing to handle the next training stimulus better than before.

If your body does not receive the next training stimulus within a reasonable period of time the achieved physiological adaptation begins to slowly decrease (detraining). However, if the next high intensity session is held BEFORE your body has recovered from the previous one the physiological adaptation will remain lower than it would have been after full recovery.

Continuous hard training with insufficient recovery will slowly lead to lower performance and a long term state of overtraining. When over trained even a long period of recovery may not be enough to return performance to the original level.

Longer more sustainable cycling may leave you less exhausted but will cause more total fatigue resulting in a longer recovery period.

Some of your cycling sessions will be interval training rather than continuous cycling where periods of high heart rates are followed by recovery periods. If the intervals are long and the recovery periods are short fatigue may reach a sufficiently high level to give you a significant recovery period.

However, for short intervals even with short recovery periods your fatigue may not accumulate sufficiently to calculate a realistic recovery period. Heart rate may rise to high levels but differs from cyclist to cyclist. Care is needed in assessing the recovery period needed.

The Training Zones correlate strongly with the lactate level of your body although for long-endurance training the correlation is not as strong (and recovery may take longer than anticipated). As a general rule a high Training Zone (5-6) can only be reached in training that also causes high lactate. Base endurance training with low lactate also has low Training Zone (Recovery through to Zone 1-Zone 4).

Training Zones Blood lactate levels
Recovery less than 1.0 mmol
Zone 1 1.0-1.5 mmol
Zone 2 1.5-2.0 mmol
Zone 3 2.0-2.5 mmol
Zone 4 2.5-3.5 mmol
Zone 5 3.5-6.0 mmol
Zone 6 more than 6 mmol
Supra-maximal more than 6 mmol

NOTE: Recovery is not just a question of the lactate level. Of more importance are the cardiovascular fatigue (linked to duration and heart rate), muscular fatigue and fatigue caused by lifestyle issues. It cannot always be assumed that a training session that causes low lactate is also one with a short recovery period.

Training Zones also be considered in the context of Recovery Time.

Scale of Recovery Time (Depends on the time spent at each level):

Training Zone Recovery time in hours/days
Recovery and Zone 1 a few hours
Zone 2 3 hours to 1 day
Zone 3 1 to 2 days
Zone 4 1 to 4 days
Zone 5 2 to 7 days
Zone 6 7 days +

General Guidelines

The best way to train is on a Wattbike, by cycling at even heart rate over a set time or distance tracking progress for improvement or deterioration in watts, speed or time to complete a set distance. It is important not to misinterpret the data – you must expect day to day variation in power output, distance covered and heart rate. What you are looking for is a trend – a period of improvement or deterioration.

Small fluctuations are normal. For some sessions – AND THIS IS IMPORTANT - power or distance covered is unimportant. If cycling for recovery it is the recovery element that is paramount, stay in your recovery heart rate zone.

Effective Training

A common mistake is to always train at high intensity and long duration. This tends to develop 'one pace cycling’ usually characterized by a gradual decline in performance over time. Such cyclists tend to have a high propensity to illness and over training (usually undiagnosed).

By reducing the duration and intensity of training and allowing sufficient recovery there may be significant short term improvement even for older athletes simply because training is more effective. In general 'more is less’ and 'less is more’.

If you find that you are training mostly in Zones 4 and 5 you are most certainly over training and under recovering. The majority of your training should be in Zones 1-3 with fewer sessions in Zones 4 and above.

If I don’t see improvement why use Training Zones to monitor my training?

It depends on your definition of improvement. When you first start using Training Zones you may see significant improvement in the power or distance completed for the same physiological effort.

After a while the power, distance and heart rate will plateau into consistency i.e. minimal variation in any of the parameters. This is because there are invisible improvements (physiological adaptation) happening. These improvements may take months or even years to develop. Building base endurance is the key to cycling faster at the higher intensities.

By using Training Zones to monitor your training you can manage your expectations, track each session for the correct level of duration-intensity-recovery, prevent illness and over training and make your cycling all the more enjoyable.

How do I know if I am improving or declining?

You may recover from a cycling session rapidly (short term fatigue) but carry accumulated (long term) fatigue from cycling session to cycling session. This long term fatigue builds up over time and is one reason why you need a periodized training program that has built in recovery sessions.

There are a number of key signs that indicate improvement or deterioration:

Improvement

  • Increasing power or distance covered for the same physiological effort
  • Reducing physiological effort for the same power or distance

Deterioration

  • Reducing power or distance for the same physiological effort
  • Increasing physiological effort for the same power or distance

Should I improve all the time?

The simple answer is NO. There are limits and it is important to know your limits to get the most out of your training and to prevent over training. There are three questions to consider:

  • Have you reached your physiological limits?
  • Are you fighting age decline?
  • Is your training ineffective?

Physiological Limits

Not everyone can be a top athlete, so much depends on genetics. It is true that you can improve aspects of body composition, strength, endurance and maximal oxygen uptake but only so far.

However it may still be possible to get a significant improvement with the correct level of duration-intensity-recovery training. For instance untrained individuals may be able to improve their VO2max by as much as 25% with training whereas in experienced cyclists improvement may only be 2-3%.

Manage your expectations to get the best out of your training and the use of training zones to monitor training sessions.

Age decline

The science of aging predicts a gradual decline in the body’s ability to function as we get older. The precise mechanisms underlying the aging process are not fully understood, but the rate of decline in the general population of biological and physiological functions is known to be progressive and age related.

The reduction in exercise capacity in older individuals stems from a decrease in muscle mass, cardiovascular function and respiratory function. One age-related alteration to respiratory function is decreased respiratory muscle strength and endurance and decline in respiratory muscle strength may lead to breathlessness during activities of daily living and exercise.

The following panel summarizes the general and specific age related evidence for biological and physiological decline.

General evidence

  • Biological and physical peak is reached between ages 20-35
  • During middle age 35-45 physical activity usually declines with a 5-10kg accumulation of body fat
  • In later middle age (45-65) women reach menopause and men reduce substantially their output of sex hormones. The decline in physical condition continues and may accelerate
  • In early old age (65-75) there may be a modest increase in physical activity following retirement but by middle old age (75-85) many people have developed some physical disability and in very old age, (over 85) totally dependency may set in
  • Typical expectation is 8-10 years of partial disability and a year of total dependency

Physiological evidence

  • Maximum heart rate declines with age
  • Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) decreases by 10% per decade in men and women regardless of age and exercise activity although some studies have shown no decline in aerobic capacity during a 10 year period in people maintaining constant training
  • Factors other than physical activity are also crucial to the decline of maximal oxygen uptake heredity issues, increase in fat, decrease in skeletal muscle mass

However, it’s not all bad news; several studies have shown that, for athletes the decrease in maximum heart rate from age 50-70 is smaller than non-athletes.

Additionally exercise training for older people may increase aerobic capacity to the same relative extent (15-30%) as in younger adults.

Indeed, the endurance performance of older athletes provides good evidence of the benefits of maintaining regular exercise to preserve cardiovascular function.

The overall conclusion is that exercise training improves physiological response at any age and improvements often occur at a rate and magnitude independent of a person’s age.

A key point for older cyclists is to remember that the older body needs more recovery time than the younger body.

Summary

  • Set realistic goals within the framework of your own physiology and performance
  • Be aware of aging and adjust expectations and the volume of training accordingly - remember an older body needs more recovery time than a younger one
  • Develop an effective training program, one that balances duration-intensity-recovery

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Technique Session 1

Session Warm Up 20 mins
5 x 4’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
1 Workout Interval 1 80rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90rpm (95, 100)
Interval 4 95rpm (100, 105)
Interval 5 100rpm (105, 110)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 2

Session Warm Up 20 mins
4 x 5’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
2 Workout Interval 1 80rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90rpm (95, 100)
Interval 4 95rpm (100, 105)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 3

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 6’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
3 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 4

Session Warm Up 20 mins
5 x 4’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
4 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Interval 4 95 rpm (100, 105)
Interval 5 100 rpm (105, 110)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 5

Session Warm Up 20 mins
4 x 5’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
5 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Interval 4 95 rpm (100, 105)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 6

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 6’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
6 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 7

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 7’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
7 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 8

Session Warm Up 20 mins
4 x 5’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
8 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Interval 4 95 rpm (100, 105)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 9

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 6’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
9 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 10

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 7’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
10 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 11

Session Warm Up 20 mins
2 x 10’ intervals 2 minute rest between intervals
11 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
×

Technique Session 12

Session Warm Up 20 mins
3 x 6’ intervals 1 minute rest between intervals
12 Workout Interval 1 80 rpm (85, 90)
Interval 2 85 rpm (90, 95)
Interval 3 90 rpm (95, 100)
Cool Down 20 mins @ recovery Zone
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