So you've completed a tough week of workouts, done a big endurance ride, or been racing, your fatigue and training stress are high, you're due a recovery day, should it be an activity recovery day or a complete rest day?
Unless you're a pro cyclist the chances are you would have raced and spent time travelling home after the race so you can get to work for 9am the next morning. You might have been away all day, all weekend or longer, and then got home late on race day. You've been away from the family, you then go to work for the day, come home and have to go for that recovery spin in the evening!!!? This is where complete rest is best, keep the family happy and let yourself recover both mentally and physically. Trying to squeeze in a recovery ride will just add stress and actually harm your recovery.
Recovery rides are the perfect social rides
What kind of ride would I do on a recovery day if I have time? Recovery rides have traditionally been about slowly moving the legs, less than 55% FTP and 68% FTHR. Recommended ride time 1 hour to 1hr30. However a slow recovery ride might not actually be quick enough to create the blood flow needed to clear lactate so there is a second option. A lactate clearance ride at an FTP of 55% to 58% and FTHR of 68% to 75%. Maximum ride time 1 to 2 hours. A recovery ride can be a good social ride, no workout steps to follow, catch up with a friend whilst turning the pedals at an easy effort.
If your fitness levels are high you might find you can recover from a 1 day event such as cross country, cyclocross, road or marathon in 24 hours but most people will benefit from 48 hours. On day 1 you could opt for either rest or a traditional 1 hour recovery ride. Day 2 a longer lactate clearance ride. Recovery days don't mean you can forget doing your stretching routines. Stretching will speed up the recovery process, plus if your muscles are used to being stretched out each evening and you suddenly stop you’ll become more vulnerable to injuries.
Don't forget to replenish those carbs and spend quality time with family and friends
Anything else to consider? Maybe you have lots of spare time Monday, you completed a cross country race on the Sunday, why not top up your base training with a steady zone 2 endurance ride? Today is a good option for this kind of training, just make sure you stick to your zones, 56 to 75% FTP and 69 to 83% FTHR. With no structured efforts use this ride to explore some new routes. Complete your recovery ride on Tuesday instead.
Be sensible with your time, look after yourself, rest if you feel the need, enjoy a day off, and prepare for that next workout.
Recovery rides are for exploring new routes.