Question: I race competitively on the road, totaling 300-400 miles per week. I make one week in every four a recovery week when I just roll around for 200 miles without any hard efforts.
The problem is that after a week of taking it easy, I don’t feel refreshed. In fact, I feel more sluggish and pathetic than when I’m pounding out the miles. It takes me another week of hard training to get my systems going again.
I don’t think that I lose fitness during the recovery week, but I seem to lose my rhythm. Is there a way to beat this recovery week torpor? — Colin F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: It’s normal to feel a bit sluggish during an easy week. Your body is in the groove of hard efforts, so cutting back 50%, even though it’s necessary for recovery in your total training program, comes as a shock to your system.
This phenomenon is reflected in long stage races by how much the riders dislike rest days. Their bodies are accustomed to going hard every day. When they have to sit on a plane or train during a transfer and then laze around the hotel, they feel awful and it’s hard to get going again when racing resumes. That’s why pros do a fairly lengthy ride on rest days.
One way to reduce the lethargy is to include some short, fast efforts during your easy week. In the middle of those rides, do several 10- to 30-second “pick ups” at 90% effort. These will awaken your legs without stressing them, defeating recovery.
One more point: You say that after rest weeks you feel more “sluggish and pathetic” than during regular training weeks. That’s not a good sign. Maybe you’re overdoing it.
When the rest week arrives, your body shuts down due to overwork during the other three weeks of your training cycle. It’s fine to feel a little sluggish when resuming hard weeks, but you should definitely not feel pathetic.