Rest and recovery in cycling

Rest and recovery in cycling

Cycling disciplines vary from short sprint events such as BMX and track racing to long endurance events such 12-hour time trials or stage races like the Tour de France. Rest and recovery are an integral part of a training programme without which you will not achieve the desired physical and mental progressions.

There are various forms of rest and recovery. Throughout your training year you will usually use a mixture:

  • Complete days of rest from exercise
  • Active recovery - a low-intensity level ride, or other form of easy exercise
  • Tapering - a planned form of recovery or rest from your normal training regime, normally prior to an event
  • Rest periods - these usually include active recovery, but allow a mental break from the routine of training.
You don't actually get fit when riding: you get fit afterwards
Benefits of rest

You don't actually get fit when riding: you get fit afterwards. This is when your body recovers and repairs itself in a stronger form to cope with the demands you are placing upon it. During rest periods and times of active recovery, your body adapts to the stresses that have been placed on it with the various methods of training.

By reducing the volume and intensity of your training, you will allow your body the time it needs to repair and adapt to the physical demands of cycling. Only after this rest period has occurred will your fitness level then increase. If you do not rest, the adaptations cannot take place and in your fitness level is likely to drop. On a microscale, your body does this every night when you go to sleep, resting after the day's exertions, and repairing yourself ready for the next day.

The routine of training results in a certain amount of mental strain too. Rest and recovery days allow you to concentrate on something other than training and can increase your motivation for those hard interval sessions later in the week.

Integrating rest and recovery

A bit of R&R is good for you...
Rest...If you are competing, it benefits your training to periodize your programme. Within each periods or cycles of training and competition, there will be a different emphasis placed on the sessions. Rest and recovery will vary depending upon the period or cycle of your training (time of year or season). Below are some general guidelines:

Within the various periods of your yearly training plan the rest and recovery time will differ. In a normal pattern within a two to six week cycle of training, your recovery time could look something like this:
Men: three weeks training followed by one week recovery. At least one recovery day after every six days training.
Women: Three weeks training followed by one week recovery. At least one recovery day after five days training.

At the end of the season, take two weeks off your normal training regime

Before a major event, taper your training. A taper involves a reduction in the intensity of your training schedule. The length of this taper will vary according to the discipline, as well as to your individual preference. A taper can last anything from 3 to 21 days. For someone who has just started competing, the taper period is short. For bigger events or more highly trained riders the period of taper is more likely to be 5-15 days.

At the end of the season, take two weeks off your normal training regime. Otherwise use a combination of complete rest days and active recovery to help recharge your batteries.

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