Many riders spend too much time on recovery training because they keep telling themselves (and everyone else) how vital their recovery training is. They believe that recovery rides are just as important as regular training. I’m afraid I have to disagree. These riders are unaware of the difference between recovery rides and plain recovery.
Recovery rides are not as essential as regular training. Recovery rides don’t improve your endurance significantly, and they only slightly accelerate the recovery process. Traditional training has a much higher, positive impact on your cycling performance.
What do you think will have the most significant impact on your performance: adding one hour of extra recovery training or one hour of additional endurance training?
If you had to reduce your training time by one hour per week, which training session would be the most critical to miss? Probably not the recovery ride…
So my conclusion is that recovery rides are NOT as essential as regular training. However, I must emphasize that the recovery process (not recovery rides) is a cornerstone of high-quality training principles.
How can you optimize your recovery rides?
Reduce training time
Most cyclists spend too much time on their recovery rides. I believe a single recovery ride should never last more than 10% of your total weekly training amount. Thus if you train for about 10 hours per week, your recovery rides should never last longer than one hour. Furthermore, spending more time on recovery rides does not make sense since these rides reflect the previous training you are recovering from.
If you want to get the most out of the time you train, you should consider eliminating your recovery rides. Instead, it will be much better to ride for an extra hour another day.
As previously mentioned, one of my riders made it to the national team with only nine hours’ super-effective training per week. It would not be possible with recovery rides of 1-2hrs. Due to limited time, we decided to skip every single recovery ride. Instead, he had two or three days per week without training. He spent these days without exercise, recovering from highly effective interval training (and had plenty of time for his education).
That is just one example and proof that even elite athletes can perform great without recovery training. If your time is limited, it’s worthwhile considering whether you should change your strategy.
Wear a heart rate monitor
The best way to ensure the intensity does not get too high is to wear a heart rate monitor. Keep your target heart rate at around 60% of your maximum heart rate. That should do the job. Light exercise increases circulation and helps you to speed up the recovery process. There will not be a miracle overnight, but it’s better than nothing. I know that many of you already use a heart rate monitor, so take this tip as a reminder.
Train other skills
When training time and intensity are reduced, you can use recovery training to learn other skills. You could easily add some technical training to your recovery ride without lowering the quality of your recovery training. It is free, fun, and is the type of extra training that will boost your overall performance. You can learn several technical tricks while performing your recovery training if you have a mountain bike.