Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Power of Rest: or, We Are Such Creatures of Habit

This week was a "rest" week for me. Those familiar with periodization will all know what I'm talking about, but the idea is that you don't just carry on training the same number of hours per week, every week, to see the greatest improvements. Instead, you stair-step the intensity, duration, or both of your workouts for a few weeks in a row, and then you back off for a week.

Allow me to illustrate with a crappy chart I made in ninety seconds in Paint:




One of the easiest and most common mistakes newer riders make is failing to adequately rest. I think it's right up there with failing to adequately train. You miss some workouts, you cut your hours short, and to somehow "make up" for this you train longer or harder on the times you are supposed to be resting. We've all done it. The behavior of a competitive endurance athlete has a disturbing number of paralells to an addict.

Humans are all addicts to their habits. They are oddly hard to change, even the healthy ones. That's why there are so many runners that don't listen and blow themselves to pieces. At least, their joints, ligaments, and cartilage are all in ruins. Then they start cycling. Periodization is NOT a habit. It's completely contrary to whatever internal motivational forces drive us to do the same thing, the SAME thing, every day. I didn't appreciate at all how HARD this would be when I started training.

This week, I succeeded at resting appropriately. When I had a two-hour ride scheduled, I grimaced, turned around, and rolled home. I supose THIS is a situation that lots of folks would use the trainer, since putting on 3259 pieces of cycling gear and getting soaked just to do ride for two hours is kind of silly, but, whatever.

So, when I did the team ride yesterday, which I DID have in the plan all week, I found myself surprised by how quickly the hours rolled by, how relatively little fatigue I felt after the end of it all. I don't track miles, but if I did I think I'd be amused. I'm sure I do at least one hundred miles in a ride one to three times per week. It does feel pretty awesome when I remember two years back to my first "century" ride, and how pleased I was just to have done it.

The moral of the story, of course, is that the hard part of real training isn't riding your bike. It's balancing everything else in life such that, after you ride your bike, you actually get enough rest to befit from the supercompensation to those stresses.

And a special note to my dear, dear sister: You know I'm going to hold you to that little resolution of yours, doncha?

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