by Helen Curtiss
No matter your cycling experience level, it’s important to find a balance between training and rest. It is important to rest after you ride in order to give your muscles a chance to repair themselves. Cycling everyday deprives your body of that recovery time, putting yourself at risk of fatigue, burn out, and injury.
But how often should this rest be taking place?
And how often should you hit the saddle for training to ensure you remain at your physical peak? Here are some hints and tips:
Hold Back When Training
When training, always keep a little gas in the tank. This means when your training is done, you should feel you have enough energy left to do a little more. This puts your body under less stress, and will leave you feeling able to ride again much sooner. Also, it reduces the number of rest days you’ll need and your likelihood of suffering from muscle strain. Cycling is a sport that your body will adapt to progressively, so start slow if you are a beginner or returning to the sport after a break. Increase your saddle time and speed over time, but remember to keep a little energy in reserve.
Use Your Days off Wisely
To improve as a cyclist, it’s important that you use your days off wisely. A day off shouldn’t consist of sitting on your couch and binging on Netflix. Even on their rest days, Tour de France riders spend between two and three hours on the saddle. Of course, these are professionals and this isn’t recommended good practice for even the most enthusiastic amateurs. But it’s a good example of how a little low intensity exercise (such as a walk around the block) on your rest days helps.
Your body will also begin repairing any micro damage that your muscles may have, and keep your muscle memory ready for your next ride. If your last ride left you feeling particularly sore and with aching muscles, then a massage is a good way to spend a rest day. It’s also recommended that you don’t return to your bike until your muscles feel recovered. You’ll avoid putting them under excessive strain and which could cause more damage.
Stop When It Stops Being Fun
Above all else, cycling should be fun: the mud on your tires, the wind on your back, the thrill of completing another great circuit. When your ride stops being fun it’s time to take a break, at least for the rest of the day. It is possible to over-exercise, and even to become addicted to exercising.
Exercise addiction is characterized by having an unhealthy relationship with your sport. This includes training when you’re injured or forcing yourself to train in order to satisfy feelings of compulsion, not for enjoyment. You may also find yourself prioritizing training over maintaining relationships with loved ones. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and worried you’re becoming addicted to cycling, then put riding on hold while you seek professional advice.
Of course, how much you train is an individual decision and there is no right answer, only the right answer for you. Starting out, at least one rest day between each riding day is recommended. This helps heal muscles that you may not have used before and keeps your motivation level high. Keen and regular cyclists should suffice with a day or two of rest each week to remain in optimal condition. What is important is that you listen carefully to your body, which will tell you how much rest it needs. And don’t ignore it when its telling you that it’s time to stop.
Helen Curtiss is a U.S. based writer and editor who initially had a career in the healthcare sector working with people who needed help with nutrition and fitness. When she became a mom, she took a step back and decided to start a career in freelance writing so she could spend more time with her kids.