Without quality rest, you are going nowhere....FAST
Most riders these days understand the importance of recovery. Many will obsess about utilising their "30 minute windows", tuck into protein shakes and injest pre-weighed portions of carbohydrates. Most have read the script and rely on this post-ride ritual to ensure they will be able to rip out some more Strava PRs again tomorrow. Whilst post-exertion re-fueling is important, there is a LOT more to recovery than protein and pasta.
When a cyclist trains, each ride creates some stress (in most cases this is good stress) in the body. When repeated, the stress stimulates adaptation within the bodies physiology producing biochemical, hormonal and even anatomical changes. These adaptations are felt as increased fitness; speed, power, endurance etc are improved in accordance with the type of riding performed. Sounds great (and fairly simple) doesn't it? Well (as always) there is a catch; ALL cyclists require periods of relative rest (lower to MUCH lower training loads) in order for this adaptation to occur. If stress continues for too long (without planned rest periods), the adaptaive process is significantly impaired and the rider will start to go backwards....bingo.....over-trained. The strange-sounding paradox is that "your body gets fitter / stronger / faster, WHILST YOU ARE RESTING and NOT whilst training". Of course the training has to be performed first and training HARD is critical.
The key to to know the optimum ratio of work to rest and then build a training structure around this knowledge. Riding experience, age, gender and physiological profile, are all part of this complex story. A good coach or some smart research will be worth the money/time investment and almost certainly save every rider many hours of wasted effort. Do yourself a favour and get tested, or at least discuss these things with a coach. You will save many hours, almost certainly some $$ and start to see some results that will NEVER come with repeatedly beating yourself up.
Building endurance fitness takes time, effort and patience. There is no doubt in my mind that rest is the missing element for most amatuer riders. Getting the correct ratio of training load / duration / rest is priority one, without it, you are heading around in circles.
If you would like some more information regarding this or any other coaching topics, please contact us at Bubba's Bikelab
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.