June 6, 2008 posted by

How Long Should Recovery Cycles Be?

This morning Romney and I got up at 5:30 to do yoga. She had a class. I joined Tony. I got out of bed as stiff and sore as I was last week when I was actually training hard and thinking that I should be closer to being recovered by now.

P90X has recovery weeks that, as I said before, are really more like transition weeks. Recovery cycles during hard training can’t always be mapped out. They generally consist of low-level training until the body is healed up and ready to go again and it’s impossible to estimate how long this will take. While there are some obvious signs when your body is recovered that will surface eventually it can be tricky to get the timing right on exactly when you should begin hard training again.

Early in a training programs when recovery periods are transition periods you’ve often just shifted the work load. During this time other breakdown is occuring and you may not feel recovered during a recovery cycle. It’s generally best to stick to a per-determined schedule during these periods. However, when you jump back into your training if performance hasn’t improved you’ll be best served to go back to your recovery phase.

During very hard training, like doubles in X or when your competing or performing it’s best to continue recovery until your sure you’re ready. The obvious indicator is feeling restless and bored and jonzing for more. But this isn’t always the case because your body can trick you and feel creaky or sluggish when it’s over rested. Checking your resting heart rate is a good way to tell when you’re rested. It’s not always correct but if your morning heart rate is slow it probably means it’s time to load up the training again. If, after a couple of sessions you aren’t feeling strong, transition back to recovery workouts and try again later.

A key component to recovery is nutrition. There’s a saying that goes along the lines of “there’s no such thing as overtraining. There’s just undereating, undersleeping, and failure of will,” and it’s accurate to the point that overtraining is defined by your ability to recover, which is a function of rest and nutrition. This brings me to a little point I’ve been thinking about concerning doping for sports, because its aim is to enhance the body’s ability to repair itself.

Sports doping enhances recovery through un-natural means. Using science we can speed up recovery, meaning you can train harder sooner. No sport has been rocked by doping as much as cycling over the last few years. This year’s Giro is an indication that doping may actually not be going on in the peloton.

The reason that almost every grand tour champion in the last 15 years has been busted for drugs is that in a stage race doping is vital if you’re competing against other dopers. In a one day race you can train, then rest and recover and peak. A stage races requires that you race daily. Over the last 15 years the speed of the grand tours has increased nearly every year. You would see the favorites win every key stage, even towards the end of the race. They were even getting stronger. Some of the fastest time trials in Tour history have been ridden at the end of the race, which seems unlikely using natural means after 20 days of continuous competition.

This year’s Giro was different. The leaders–even though they were the best time trialists in the race–got creamed in the final stage. This makes sense because they’d been battling in the mountains during the previous stages while those not competing for the general classification were “resting” in the autobus, just trying to make the time cut. In the last stage the overall leaders were very competitive with each other but were beaten badly by those who’d rested while they were racing. This is a far cry from the last couple of decades (since EPO surfaced in the peloton) where the favorites would be dropping everyone in the mountains and then take more minutes in a time trail for following day. Clean cycling may be a reality again.

I’m not sure if I am creaky and sluggish or still overtrained, but yoga was hard this morning. I’ll take it slow and steady this weekend, plan the next block of training, but Monday will only be a test as to whether I move ahead or do some more recovery.

pic: Giro podium: first and second in the first tt, this group finished 11th, 28th, and 68th on the race’s final day.


  • Steve – tomorrow is my last day of week 3. Today was legs & back and I was beat…it seemed so hard to do each and every move. I have Kenpo tomorrow (which is my favorite), but I’m looking forward to a recovery week of easy (but long) riding.

  • Steve – I’m glad you blogged on recovery today, because this is EXACTLY what I needed to read. Thanks again for your blogs filled with good advice, direction, and some laughter material.

  • steve – so much for “easy” riding…today Bruce took me on a 55 mile ride – started at home, went all around PV and back home. 4 hours, 55 miles. my legs hurt!

  • had a very similar recovery week experience. ah, what can you do? you’ve gotta ride your bike. currently reading put me back on my bike, about tom simpson. you guys might want to read it if you haven’t already.

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