Recovery Signals

Recovery Signals

I was chatting with a fellow cyclist on my ride yesterday and we talked about a few things, and one of those topics was recovery. He was relating how much faster he was after he started working with that coach and that coach gave him a full recovery week each month. So after three weeks of good, solid training the fourth week would be really easy with days off or easy recovery rides. (As a coach, I smiled.) The 3+1 is a very common model in periodization schemes (fits into our 4-week month, works well with the M-F 8-5 workers, and a lot of athletes can handle it), but not everyone will fit in the 3+1 scheme. How do you know what works for you, as maybe you need recovery before three weeks as is common for athletes above 50. Let’s take a look at some signs that might indicate you are ready for a recovery period.

  • High resting heart rate (don’t measure your resting heart rate? You should!)
  • Unable to reach prescribed training zones (power and/or heart rate) or low heart rate/power at high perceived exertions.
  • Easily fatigued on what should be a moderate effort (when you can’t keep up with the group and they aren’t going very fast!)
  • More mood extremes – are you feeling more grumpy lately?
  • Lack of motivation to train.
Here’s an example from my training. In the summer of 2011, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to town. Associated with this were two local bike races – a crit on Saturday and a time trial up a steep mountain on Sunday (1200+ft in 3.1 miles). I couldn’t resist competing in these and really pushed myself (and managed to take 1st cat 4 women in both!)
The crit lasted 20 minutes and the TT took me just under 24 minutes. Here’s my power/HR file from the TT:

Cheyenne Canon Time Trial, August 2011

You can see the TT (ended at the top of the hill – the green is elevation) I was maxed out with my HR about 180bpm.
A few days later it was time for my interval sessions, 4x12min at ~175watts and here’s what happened:

Interval workout - 4x12 minutes

At interval #3, I didn’t get back to where I was on the first two intervals so after a few minutes I gave myself some more recovery. I tried again, but still no luck. My legs were toast from the efforts in the crit and TT. So I kept the intensity down for the rest of the week. A week later I repeated the same workout:

4x12 minute intervals - a week later

Success! I was able to hold consistent power across all four intervals. I was recovered and ready for the training stress of that particular workout.
There are a lot of factors that can affect the above in addition to training load, such as sleep, nutrition, and general life stress. The best thing to do is log metrics regarding your training and recovery and see where your fatigue begins in your training cycle. TrainingPeaks has good functionality with this, and they even have special graphs that can help you monitor this, but any logging system can work if you are consistent. Logging your training can also help monitor your recovery period and when you can return to more strenuous training. Communicate with your coach as well, especially if you are self-coached! Knowing your training habits and when you need a recovery period is critical to success as an athlete. Don’t be afraid to take a rest day or two or three, or week. Your body needs it!
What are your recovery signals?
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Nicole Odell

nicole@neoendurancesports.com

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