How much rest is enough?

baby_yawning-smWe cyclists and multisport athletes are a hard working bunch. We love to work and work really hard on our training. We may put in as many as 5-7 days of training with 1 or more races a week.

The biggest challenge facing endurance athletes is the propensity to over do it when it comes to training volumes. The biggest concern I have of those that I coach that I schedule the appropriate amount of training and recovery in an effort to improve fitness and not put the athlete into a rest debt. Rest debt will lead to training apathy and eventually burn out.

So what is the appropriate amount of rest? It depends on many factors such as: athletic discipline, age and experience.

Athletic Discipline

A Triathlete will be training for 3 sports, a duathlete 2 and a competitive road racer 1. Triathletes and duathletes will train with intensity but will emphasize endurance over sprinting. Where as a road racer will spend a few months out of the year working on endurance the rest of the time they maybe working on the development of power or anaerobic based training.

Age

If you are a Master’s level racer or age group competitor you may train for 3-4 weeks straight before needing to take an active rest week. Those of us who are Masters 40 years of age or older should train in 2 week blocks and on the 3 week plan for an active rest week. I also suggest that all athletes take one day off each week from there primary sport in an effort to recover. I do coach a few cyclists that swear that they feel worse during the race season if the did not ride every day. This means more work for me as I need to monitor there fitness to see if they are improving or stagnating.

Experience

It takes time to recognize when you are over doing it. I have been back to training, riding and racing for almost 10 years now and every now and then I still over due it. I use the the adage when in doubt rest. If I start feeling overly tired, cranky and my attention span starts to resemble that of a spider monkey I know it’s time to in crease my rest. Experienced athletes may find that they may need more or less time to rest depending on their current fitness and training schedules. There have been weeks that I was suppose to have active recovery weeks that I cut short due to feeling like a rock star and then there have been weeks where it took more than 7 days to begin to feel human again. If you are self coached listen to your body first and fore most.

By now some cyclists reading this article are probably wondering why I haven’t mention the magic word “recovery” in this article. Rest is a part of recovery and is almost it’s own training discipline. Recovery includes but is not limited to rest, nutrition, exercise and body maintenance such as massage and other physical therapies meant to rejuvenate the body. While I do not give out formulas for training I am going to break that rule next.

How much daily rest do I need as a competitive cyclists/endurance athlete?

  • A minimum of 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep each evening
  • The weeks where you do not have a priority race rest as much as you can
  • The week of a priority race when not training or racing you are resting
  • Lean if you do not have to stand, sit if you do not have to lean, lay down if you do not have to sit
  • Avoid stress!!!!!!!

This leads me the picture I chose for the post, A baby yawning. I read an interview of the wife of a professional cyclists and she was comparing the needs of her professional husband to that of a child who needed a strict diet, frequent naps, structure, play time and constant attention. While it was meant to be a funny look into the life a professional cyclist through the eyes of a supporting wife it does shed light on the needs of the competitive cyclist. No pun intended but this was a wake up call for me as I have never been a good sleeper and have struggled off and on with insomnia since my college years.

Here are a few tips that I have learned to improve my odds of getting a good night’s sleep

  • A bedroom that is dark, cool and has very little to no clutter
  • Do not eat 3 hours before going to bed
  • Drink a glass of water before going to bed
  • Do not take vitamins before going to bed
  • Do not consume caffeine past 4 PM (chocolate, coffee, tea, supplements, sodas)
  • Stretch an hour before going to bed
  • Deep tissue massage needs to be done at least 3 hours before going to bed
  • Get away from electronics and back lit screens at least 1 hour before going to bed

I know that many of us are holding down full time jobs, family and even business while trying to be the best competitive athlete we can be. So when we look at the above we think that there is no way I can squeeze this into my schedule. You are probably right but you need to try. You will feel better and perform better and isn’t that why we are active athletes?

Have a great ride and get some rest!

Coach Rob

3 Comments on “How much rest is enough?”

  1. Rob,

    Your article hits the nail on the head. Yes, an uninterrupted eight hours will be tough for this old guy…(apparently we visit the restroom more throughout the night as we age.)

  2. Contrary to one of your ending bullet points (which is why I’m bringing it up) I actually avoid water/liquids in the evening because I find doing so decreases my risk of waking in the middle of the night to pee. I drink so much during the day that I don’t think this causes a hydration issue but I’ve no doubt it’s improved my sleep quality.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kyle, I do agree that fluids late into the evening can cause sleep disturbances. I also find that it becomes more pronounced in older athletes.

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