One of the most common mistakes I see young riders make is riding too hard, too often. I made this same mistake when I started really thinking about training. In my mind all I wanted to do was ride harder and longer than everyone else. I thought that this was the best approach to winning. Now there is some merit to riding for a long time, and for continually increasing volume. In fact, it’s crucial to continue to get faster. But what people do wrong is that they try to go fast during every ride. They never slow down.
What happens is that they end up spending the vast majority of their time in zone 3, or tempo. This will bring some good results early on, but it quickly leads to a frustrating plateau as you’re wondering why you’re not getting faster even though you’re riding harder and longer than everyone else.
What’s fascinating is that we get stronger in the recovery from our, not from the actual training. In fact, when you finish a ride, you’re generally slower than when you started due to fatigue, but you’ve created the potential for increased strength. I say potential because it’s not guaranteed. At least not in its full capacity. It can be messed up by poor recovery.
This is why sleep, nutrition, easy days, and days completely off the bike are so important.
Today is Easter, and I’ve been thinking about the process of recovery. In some ways, it’s kind of like a resurrection that occurs in our muscles every time we work them.
In a sense our muscles die as we rip them apart during exercise, and then as we sleep they begin to resurrect until we wake up stronger and more capable than we were the day before. It’s almost as if our bodies go through a mini resurrection after every training session IF we allow ourselves to recover.
I’ve also thought about the wise words of the ancient King Benjamin who counseled his people, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” (Mosiah 4: 27).
I think that it can be easy to have a desire to run faster than we have strength, especially when we want to accomplish big things. But “all things must be done in order” and in order for our muscles to reap the benefit of the death we bring upon them during training they must be resurrected.
Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way by having several races where I underperformed despite training a lot. Now you can learn from my mistake without having to do it yourself.
Train hard, and then recover. Ride easy. Go slow. Only 2 hard workouts a week, occasionally 3. 4 relatively easy days. Take Sundays off. It’s important physically, and it’s also important mentally.
Take the day to ponder. Ponder the greater purposes of life and the reasons we do the things we do. Ponder how you can change for the better. It’ll make you faster, because it’ll make you happier. And happy people succeed.