The harder you push yourself, the farther you can go. Many believe this to be true, yet there are situations where you must take a break, rather than trying to go just a little bit further. Competitive cycling is a good example of this. Although you may feel like you should be training every single day of the week, you'll find that you do better if you give your body a day of recovery. In fact, you should use this day to learn exactly Why Rest and Recovery Are Important in Cycling and what other things you can do to boost your performance, even when it seems you are taking a break.
As you train, your muscles actually undergo damage. Small tears develop and these tears must be repaired, which leads to inflammation in the muscles. During the rebuilding process, the muscles become thicker and stronger. Muscles, which have undergone this abuse, need a few days to fully heal, making the recovery process even more important. If you don't take the time to allow your body to recover, you'll find that you become too weak to continue or you sustain an injury. For this reason, you must always take the time to rest your body, and the time spent in recovery needs to be approximately equal to the time spent training.
Competitive riders understand recovery periods help to reduce the risk of injury, yet these rest periods are important for other reasons also. Burnout is an issue with anyone who rides competitively, and the rest period provides some downtime, time for the athlete to relax and just have fun. This doesn't mean the bike has to stay in the garage or wherever it is normally stored. Take the time for a leisurely ride, one just for fun, and make sure you take it very slow. If you find you do want a break from cycling, engage in another activity, such as walking or jogging. Better yet, take the day and go get a massage. Not only will this help with recovery, you'll also be more relaxed.
During the recovery period, you need to take the time to replenish your body in terms of its energy stores. The body uses a great deal of carbohydrates and they need to be replaced to keep your training at an optimal level. Carbohydrates aren't the only things used in large quantities when you train hard. You also need to ensure you are taking in enough protein to mend damaged muscles and replenish your sodium and potassium, as you lose a great deal of both when you sweat. In fact, experts recommend you drink a protein shake before bed, as the protein works to rebuild your muscles while you sleep.
Sleep is another important part of recovery. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep while training, just as Tour de France riders do during the race. They sleep as much as 70 hours during that week while most people only get 40 to 50 hours of rest during a seven day period. While sleeping, the body produces hormones necessary for recovery, and reduced sleep limits reaction time also. You need to be at your best when it comes to performance and reaction time so make sure you get lots of sleep when training.
After learning exactly Why Rest and Recovery Are Important in Cycling, you need to determine when these rest days should occur. The best way to do this is to establish a training plan before you actually put the plan into action. When you are in the midst of intense training, you may be tempted to push yourself further. If you remain committed to the plan, however, you'll find that your body actually does better, as you are no longer over-training. The plan gives you the big picture, which can easily be lost in competition. Make the plan and stick to it and you'll find that you are going farther than you ever did before.