I recently had a reader ask me, “What’s the one thing I need to do above all else that will make the biggest difference in my results and performance? More intervals? Group rides? Weight training?”
When I told him, “recover better” he scoffed at me a little.
“Fffffftttttttttt. OK! So I just need to rest more and ride less is what you’re saying??!!”
Well kinda, but there’s more to it than that. I said…
“Train beyond your limits on your key session (hard) days and recover beyond your limits on your recovery days. Remove useless recovery rides and junk miles and don’t PASS on rest and you will improve–GUARANTEED.”
He didn’t like that answer as the line went quite.
I told him, “Seriously, one of the best kept secrets of strong, progressively improving cyclists is NOT drilling themselves into the ground seven days a week and riding endless miles. But rather, taking a more STRATEGIC APPROACH to maximize recovery between harder and harder efforts and eliminating weaknesses.”
He went on to tell me that I was “lying“.
No seriously. He called me a liar and said…
“Graeme, the strongest riders in my group are riding 6-7 days and 200+ miles a week and constantly going for KOM’s on STRAVA and telling me SUFFERFEST is what they do indoors, always pushing harder and harder. How can recovery be their secret then, if I ride less than they do?”
So, I responded with some things he needs to consider…
First of all, “You’re assuming that these other riders are MAXIMIZING their personal potential and that’s a big mistake. Just because they’re the “stronger” rider in your group, DOES NOT mean they are maximizing their growth as a cyclist. You’re making an assumption based on comparing them to you and others in your group. They may be still WAY BELOW what they can actually perform if they were to make some balancing shifts in their training to maximize recovery. Same applies to ALL cyclists!“
Second, “You’re assuming because one rider is stronger than you, that copying what they are doing or trying to do with smash mouth training and long junk miles must be the answer for YOU. It is through this “dummy down”, dogmatic assumption most cyclists make that leads many cyclists to do more volume than is needed to improve, or fall victim to the unbalanced STRAVA-slut approach that all rides must achieve a KOM or leader board result to be beneficial, regardless of QUALITY OF RECOVERY.”
This is where MOST CYCLISTS begin to lose their gains!
However, HIT training is NOT the only secret for ongoing cycling performance, power gains, and growth. Even though many workouts out there, like SUFFERFEST are excellent at pushing you beyond your limits, they STILL don’t complete the equation and tie in the proper RECOVERY and SUPPORT WORKOUTS that are needed to make harder training sessions possible.
FACT: Training harder is impossible for ALL CYCLISTS without proper recovery and support training.
I went on to tell him, as I’ll tell you now…
Instead of focusing on what others are doing, FOCUS ON:
1. High Intensity + Recovery = Results!
Balance each High Intensity Session, either indoors or outdoors, with proper RECOVERY that focuses on strengthening, lengthening, and mobilizing the body to perform at a higher level on subsequent workouts. This will include on the bike cool-down, post ride cool-down, and cycling specific stretching and mobilization.
FACT: A tight, beat up, un-recovered cyclist WILL NOT be able to perform progressively harder workouts and as a result WILL BE DOOMED to plateau his/her results. Active recovery, like the CORE 2.0 RECOVER workout needs to be used at least once per week, if not more as intensity gets higher.
2. Your Training is All About Getting to “Key Sessions”, Rested!
Prioritize KEY SESSIONS per week or per month that are GOAL FOCUSED based on your specific weaknesses and upcoming cycling events. Meaning, if you have a long 80+ mile climbing event coming up, then better make sure your Muscular Endurance and Climbing Technique are in check and your core/back is ready to handle the load. Your training should reflect that, not only with your training, but in your recovery and placement of KEY SESSIONS.
PUT IT TO WORK: It is this “strategic method” of placing key sessions, HIT Sessions, Technique Sessions, Support Workouts, Recovery Workouts, and goal focus training that makes our CYCLO90 Base and follow-up CYCLO90 In-Season Training Systems able to produce ONGOING RESULTS each week and month, all year long.
3. Strong Core is a Strong Cyclist
Without exception, include cycling specific core workouts to continue to reinforce your on the bike muscular endurance, strength, and power. Miss this, and you’ll pay the price! This is NOT only for the BASE PHASE of cycling periodization like most cyclists believe, but even more so for IN-SEASON use as your body requires more and more support from your functional core and mobility as volume and intensity or training increases.
4. Recovery Rides STEAL Your Strength!
Lastly, don’t get suckered into the notion that training everyday, even with “recovery rides” is leading to enhanced recovery. I can not tell you how many cyclists believe that a 2 hour, “recovery spin” is beneficial on day 6 or 7 of training and then wondering why they feel so tired and unmotivated on their harder, Key Session training days.
FACT: If you are not getting to the majority of your KEY SESSIONS per week, rested and at your best because you over-use recovery rides due to ego or misled info–YOU ARE MISSING MASSIVE RESULTS! It is this fact alone that most cyclist “ride lots” yet reap little tangible rewards in performance gains.
The call ended with him saying in a monotone voice, “thank you, I’ll think about what you said.”
Look, I can’t make someone believe this. You have to have the courage to do it yourself. You have to be willing to stretch your limits, then have the courage to TRUST YOUR BODY and POSITION YOUR TRAINING to allow your body to recover.
Most cyclists I encounter usually struggle with one, the other, or BOTH.
Many of the new platforms out today, like STRAVA and SUFFERFEST are actually re-enforcing the notion that “rest is for the weak” or worse–“every workout or ride needs to be above your limits.”
The problem is that many cyclists think in BLACK or WHITE and as a result–crush themselves into the “pain cave” with little regard for QUALITY of training or RECOVERY effectiveness.
You heard it from me first, this notion or common believe is going to get a lot of cyclists hurt, demotivated, or constantly fatigued and frustrated over time. I’ve already seen it with many of my cyclists I encounter and yes–EVEN I have fallen victim to it.
Hey, I’m human too and even knowing that QUALITY REST is necessary, I still can fall victim to the antiquated notion of, “train more for more results” instead of the updated notion of “improve training and recovery quality for more results.”
This debate has continued because NO ONE wants to believe that what they’ve been doing for months, years, or decades could possibly be wrong.
Ride Hard. Recover Harder. Have Courage!
P.S. Here’s how a cycling specific training system, is helping riders, like you maximize training time and recovery for 15-20% Gains in cycling fitness. If you are headed into your IN-SEASON of goal training, you may want to look at this instead.
P.P.S If you have questions, comments or you think I’m a liar too–please post below. I welcome your input.