Recovery is a mindset

I remember, during my first foray into structured training programme, how hard my first active recovery week was. It felt so aimless. Sure, after two long weeks of suffering I was so glad to finally take the foot off the accelerator and coast for some joyriding. But I found it so hard to ride so easy.

The struggle was real and it had two parts. First, the legs just wanted to be pushing more watts. Second, my self-talk was all like “No man, this can’t be doing any good for your fitness. This is too easy. How is this going to make you stronger when you have to go so light on the pedals?”

This is when I realised that recovery is not only about giving the body time to adapt after the stress you’ve put it under, but that the way we think about reovery is actually a governor of our performance. Let me explain …

We ask a coach to train us because we want to improve, to get stronger, to get quicker. Along with the fast-paced society we live in, we get caught up in the stream of go, go, go! This then affects the way we think and it translates into our cycling. So it’s nice to have a little recovery after an interval in a workout, but it’s a different game when we have to string together a week of active recovery rides in our periodised training plan. It is also a reality after we’ve completed a very hard training session, a very long ride or a massive A-race.

For those of us who’ve done Ultra Endurance events, we’ve learned how long it takes the body to get back to normal. How did we learn? We tried to go and klap a ride within a week of the event. The result. Gnashing of teeth and illness.

And so I’m of the opinion that recovery is a decision, it’s a mindset. It’s a conscious decision to take it easy and to not feel bad about giving yourself the time you need to recover. It’s about being ok with your legs not feeling great on a workout and then deciding to stop the workout early. It’s about letting the FOMO go and realising that you will just end up shortchanging your performance if you do not force yourself to recover.

So here’s a strategy that may help if you’re one of those people who’s brain does not compute this recovery idea. See recovery as a goal, a target, and do your best to work really hard at recovery. Try your hardest to go as easy as you can. The research supports the fact that “the easier the better” for recovery. So instead of racing to coffee on a recovery day, do your best to get there as easily as possible.

Unlike pro-riders, who get to binge on the series channel after training, we have to get the kids dressed and to school, rush to work, deal with work pressure, get home, sort out supper, deal with happy hour bath time, engage with our spouse or partner, do more work, sleep and then wake up and train. The stress and strain that this puts our body and mind under is immense and we often don”t realise it. This is why active recovery weeks and the week after a big ride should be taken as seriously as possible.

For the love of coffee!!!!!!!

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