Recovery rides are a thing many don’t understand, but I think they are great! The purpose of a recovery ride is to help you recover from the other workouts you have done whilst still spinning your legs, which helps flush them out, loosens up the muscles, and encourages blood circulation.
Recovery rides are actually good for you. I find that if I have done a tough few sessions and I take a day or two off the bike, I have trouble getting the muscles going again during my next session. Whereas when I throw in a recovery ride (or other form of active recovery), I can start my next session without feeling sluggish.
I know many people think recovery rides are tougher than normal rides or even interval sessions, because it is so easy to go over your target wattage without even realising. (Unlike when doing certain intervals and you couldn’t go over the target wattage even if you tried.)
What should I do on a recovery ride?
Focus on the following:
- Low power/HR
- High cadence
- No pushing up the hills (a flat route is best)
I tend to do my recovery rides with a high cadence, around 100 rpm, but anywhere 85-100 rpm is good. Once I get to the flat part of my route, I look at my power and find the right wattage, and try and keep my cadence where it is, checking the wattage occasionally for any deviations.
A recovery ride should be done at an intensity of about 60% max HR, or below 75% FTP (personally I try to keep below 50% FTP).
Recovery rides are easiest to do by yourself, because you don’t have to keep telling people to keep it steady. But if there is a group that cycles slower than you normally do, then that is perfect as well: you can either just sit in the wheels, or when it is your turn at the front, you shouldn’t be over your target HR or wattage.
My favourite recovery rides are ones that stop at a café or ice cream shop! That way you know you are just doing your ride as something fun, and you don’t need to set a new PB for 5 min power or on a Strava segment. Take it easy, enjoy the scenery, and have a nice time just riding your bike!
When should I do a recovery ride?
As often as possible.
It is good for you to do regular recovery rides, and if they are as short as 30 mins just to flush the legs, then you could do a couple a week. I try to do one a week, but when I cycle to work I try to keep my HR low as well, so I get an extra micro-recovery session then too.
My suggestion is to do your hard interval session one day, then a recovery ride the next. You could even do a recovery ride the evening/morning after a tough session, just so there is less time for your muscles to stiffen and you start the recovery process sooner.
What else can I do?
Another form of low-intensity training, such as yoga.
The most important thing is to use the muscles a little and encourage circulation. Yoga, massage, stretching (dynamic or static), walking, anything that you can fit in. I try to stretch and massage the muscles after each training session, and do 2 or 3 thorough yoga/stretching sessions a week. It is easy to do a 30 min session in the morning or before bed, and it helps relax you as well; setting you up for either a good day at work or a good night’s sleep!
Last week I did a long training session on Saturday and another on Sunday, so I did a stretching session both Sunday evening and on Monday. I currently have a 3-day block planned (did a tough interval session with my team yesterday, and have hill repeats planned today and tomorrow), so I did stretching session this morning and will try and get in a 30 min recovery ride on the rollers on Friday morning, then maybe another recovery ride on Sunday.
Planning your training in blocks makes it easier to know when to plan a recovery ride, and this is something I might write about another time. 🙂
Have a good week,