Roll-Over on Recovery?

31 12 2009

We all know that our human bodies are designed to respond to increased workloads with increased strength. But this is a generalization. How do we know when we’re ready to continue training? There have been quite a few times after a hard session the day before when I’ve thought, “Nnahh, I feel OK. I’ll hit it hard.” Big mistake. Had I known the metrics to monitor, I wouldn’t have dug that hole-of-damage any deeper.

Academics to the rescue.

The basics:

  • Get your sleep (keep the laughter to a minimum please). The average person needs 8 hours of sleep. Some folks may need more.
  • Get your food and water. I wrote a bit more on this on an earlier post. Armstrong and Carmichael’s book recommends that your sleep schedule complement the benefits of proper nutrition. Burke echoes the same–rest and recovery is crucial during the heaviest training periods, and that proper nutrition and hydration is especially important.

But what signals should I look for? Good question. Lets investigate.

lists some symptoms of over-training:

Emotional and Behavioral Changes Physical Changes
Loss of enthusiasm and drive; generalized apathy Impaired physical performance; inability to complete
Loss of joy in and thirst for, competition Gradual weight loss
Desire to quit Looks drawn, sallow, and dejected
Lethargy. listlessness, tiredness Early morning heart rate increases by more than 5 beats per minute; abnormal rise in standing heart rate, during, and after a standard workout; slower recovery in heart rate after exertion
Feeling peevish; easily irritated, anxious, ill-humored, bored Heavy-leggedness; sluggishness that persists 24 hours or more after a workout
Inability to concentrate at work; poor academic performance Muscle and joint pains; persistent muscle soreness from session to session
Changes in sleeping patterns; insomnia; sleep does not refresh Swelling of the lymph glands
Loss of appetite Gastrointestinal disturbances, in particular diarrhea
Loss of libido Increased susceptibility to infections, allergies, headache
Poor coordination; general clumsiness Minor scratches heal slowly
Increased fluid intake at night; feeling thirsty In women, loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)

also gives us his interpretation:

  • Unexplained underperformance
  • Prolonged recovery
  • Reduced maximal heart rate
  • Reduced maximal blood lactate concentration
  • Increased sleeping heart rate
  • Excessive fatigue
  • “Heavy” muscles
  • Upper respiratory track infections…or colds
  • Increased susceptibility to illnesses and allergies
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Depression
  • Loss of competitive drive
  • Increased anxiety and irritation
  • Decreased ability to narrow concentration

The symptoms that I recognize in myself are in bold face. Additionally, Carmichael recommends:

…days between races or hard efforts…should be filled with riding at a reduced stress load…known as recovery rides. ride enough to stimulate active recovery but not enough to introduce a training load. Simple rides of 1/2 to 2 hours at a H/R of 60%-65% of your maximum and at a comfortable cadence.

My emphasis on comfortable, i.e. 80-90 rpm.

Picture of stationary trainer and TV

Pedal and a Movie!

I’ve read that stretching may help, although I’ve not perceived much benefit from doing so. Jeukendrup says that warm-ups–not stretching, actually improves flexibility.

So what’s the bottom-line here? Well, like Burke says, I need to pay attention to my body’s signals, keep a detailed training log, and learn from previous responses. Some of the first things I notice in the morning is what my pulse is doing usually followed by what level of soreness my legs have. These items are noted in my training diary later in the day. Next on the morning task list is measuring body weight, and as an aside it would help to have a more accurate scale. (One of the Tanita Ironman body composition scales would be nice.)

If there’s a good amount of soreness present, I’ll likely call for a recovery spin in lieu of the day’s scheduled training and do 1 to 2 hours in power zone 1 at a cadence of 80 to 95. During racing season or after particularly hard training effort this could take two days or so…just depends on what signals I’m getting.

When I awake and see that the “dashboard” is green, then I can look forward to training hard that day. (Like in the specialization phase fast approaching.)

By the way, Velonews puts out a great and simple log by Joe Friel. It’s the one I use and the version that I will purchase for my wife; who will start racing this next season. Note- I think the new price at Amazon Books is a typographical error. The price on the back cover is $12.95.

Jeukendrup has a nice seven-step plan for avoiding over-training:

  1. Monitor performance regularly
  2. Periodize and individualize your training program
  3. Monitor your psychological state
  4. Keep a training diary
  5. Practice good nutrition
  6. Screen for and manage infection
  7. Educate yourself

So there it is. Not only should we train and race hard, we should rest as well. Kind of obvious isn’t it? (Well, not as obvious to this y-chromosome guy.)

I regret to say that I omitted a very important piece of recovery information–your significant other. I save my recovery rides to do with my wife, who has taken-up cycling. This is an activity we can do together and so cycling is both beneficial for us and our relationship. I can ensure a ride in power zone 1 while she builds on speed and endurance within her own training plan.

That said, hopefully I won’t be “out in the doghouse” after this.




3 responses

31 12 2009
Barb Chamberlain

For those of us partnered with a racing guy like this one, you can help your racer get appropriate recovery rides by asking to go on a ride together.

I could never keep up (well, at least not yet) on a pace that constitutes training for him. But my own training ride in zone 2 (3-4-5) is a recovery ride in zone 1 for Eric, so it works for both of us and we get to spend time riding together (like our cold ride on Fish Lake Trail that I blogged about here:


31 12 2009
Tweets that mention Roll-Over on Recovery? « Eric's Road Bike Racing & Training Blog --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by barbchamberlain, Eric Abbott. Eric Abbott said: My brief thoughts on recovery and knowing when to take a break: […]

1 01 2010
uberVU - social comments

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by barbchamberlain: Latest post by my bike-racing sweetheart @EricRacesBikes on the importance of recovery for training results….

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