This ain't no recovery ride

Guest Article – Recovery Rides

Guest Article – Recovery Rides

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I would have to start training to even do a recovery ride. And I would have to own a cyclometer, HRM, and the unavoidable watt meter. And all that would tell me what I already don’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss until some teenager on a mountain bike gets by you and at that point you better not have a watt meter on your bike. Still, we have to train and we should do it scientifically, like @Teocalli here. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

I have a problem with Recovery Rides. I understand them but I still have a problem with them. Let me try to explain.

First (and to all experts here – forgive me for a simplistic view of this) let me level the ground by clarifying the concept by using the 5 Training Zones model. In this model the Maximum Heart Rate Reserve (MHRR) is based on the value derived from the difference between your Maximum Heart Rate and your relaxed Resting Heart Rate. So for a subject of say 50 (not me) we have:

Age = 50

Resting HR = 48

Max HR = 174 (note there may be different opinions on this depending on where you look it up and whether you have actually had it measured scientifically)

Which gives:

  • 50% Zone 0.5 x 126 + 48 = 111
  • 60% Zone 0.6 x 126 + 48 = 124
  • 70% Zone 0.7 x 126 + 48 = 136
  • 80% Zone 0.8 x 126 + 48 = 148
  • 90% Zone 0.9 x 126 + 48 = 161
  • 100% Zone @ max HR = 174

The 5 Zone model then becomes defined by:

  • Zone 1: Warm-Up Zone based on 50-60% of MHRR typically related to warm-up or cool-down.
  • Zone 2: Recovery Zone based on 60-70% of MHRR used for long slow rides and recovery rides.
  • Zone 3: Aerobic Zone based on 70-80% of MHRR used for overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Zone 4: Anaerobic Zone based on 80-90% of MHRR used for training to increase lactate threshold.
  • Zone 5: Redline Zone at 90-100% of MHRR used by the very fit for short periods for example in interval training.

A buddy once equated these to the following for those who do not use a Heart Rate Monitor.

  • Zone 1: Barely awake
  • Zone 2: Can hold a normal conversation while riding
  • Zone 3: Conversation becomes restricted to single sentences
  • Zone 4: Gasps single phrases
  • Zone 5: Conversation?  Are you serious?!

The basic concept behind a Recovery Ride being that when training or post a significant event (cycling-wise that is) you should plan in complete rides in Zone 2 within your training diary.

Simple enough? So what’s my problem? Well, if you ask anyone who knows me well whether or not I am a competitive soul they would probably fall over laughing. If I go out on a solo ride and see another rider up ahead I have to try to catch them. If I get caught then, after giving the rider due kudos, I have to try to hold position on them. Not wheelsucking but give them a respectful space and try to hold their pace. If I’m out on my vintage steed it’s a target to pass riders on modern rigs – almost like adding a badge on the top tube for each carbon rig notched off.

carbon rigs

As I think someone else noted elsewhere, if I simply get blown away I just assume they have not gone, or are not going, as far as I am. Somehow it never seems to cross my mind that they may be 30-40 years (or more) younger than me and darned well should be going faster.

So you may now be getting the drift of why I have a problem with Recovery Rides. How can one simply cruise along and let people breeze past without feeling that they have notched you up as a slower rider – particularly if I am out on my carbon fantastic?  However hard I try it simply does not seem to happen. I set out with the intention of a nice quiet ride and somehow still end up trying to attain warp speed and/or hammer up the steepest climbs on the route at max bore. A Recovery Ride just does not seem to fit in my psyche.

However, finally I think I may have come up with a solution. I’m going to have a jersey made with the following on the back:

RECOVERY RIDE

PLEASE PASS

Then again my condition may be so bad that my psyche may latch onto this in the wrong way. What would be the effect of someone breezing past you with the above on their back? Hmmm…

// Guest Article // Technique

  1. @ChrisO Thanks, those posts deserve permanent +1s. Hope the 3-day race is going well.

  2. @ChrisO Wow, a complete training bible! Thanks mate. I’ve just got back from a weekend away so haven’t had a chance to digest it fully yet – I think I’ll have to set it on a spreadsheet to get a better feel for the full programme. My only real concern is that I have got a massive amount of miles in my legs so might have to get some longer rides in.

    The race is open to Cat 2 – 4 in teams of 4. It kicks off with a 5km prologue followed by a 80km road stage and a 100km road stage on day 2.

  3. The fine print on using these HR zones  is that you need an established aerobic base before the HR zones are useful for training.  Without an aerobic base, your HR sits in a high zone even on slowish rides, leaving you wondering what it all means.

    I am two years into a comeback to racing after 20 years. I spent my first year training “as hard as a could”  My HR was going straight into a high zone 4+ on all the rides, all the time.  Even on slower rides I had a HR around average 180 beats per minute.  Forget interval training when that is happening – you are already doing an interval when going down the street to buy the paper.

    Through the internet, I learnt about the concept of base training and I did some further reading.  I then spent about 20 weeks training mainly in the low HR zones, below 140 BPM.  At first I had creep along to do this and avoid all hills.  The base rides were embarrassingly slow (20-22kph), and my friends were all laughing as they left me behind.  Nothing seemed to be happening for about 6 weeks and then I noticed that my average speeds were getting faster at the same low HR.  After about 10 weeks, I bettered my fastest average speed on a 50km solo ride (30kph), with my HR 40 beats lower than before.  Amazing how easy it felt. 

    Now that I have done a round of base training, the HR zones in the article are useful for interval training.  The Tempo zone now feels tempo, before it was slower than a normal training ride and didn’t make sense at all. 

    Has any one else got a similar story from their first round of base training? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone…..

  4. I made this up last year for my riding buddy and mate after I introduced him to the concept of a recovery ride. He tried it once and complained about the embarrisment.

  5. @scaler911

    2 things I purposely do when doing recovery rides: 1: leave the Garmin at home. 2: leave the Garmin at home.

    Well, I see what you’re doing there but personally I still take the Garmin. First, since I use a power meter it ensures I keep things within the purpose of the ride (but yes I could do it without – see #2), and two, since I use a power meter, I log it (privately, not on Strava) for future reference. Handy to know what I have done and when.

  6. @Roy Mate, nothing as scientific as that, but I found when I did a couple of fun weekend rides with slower people (4hrs plus each, MTB at 9kph avg and road 23kph avg) I felt much stronger on the fast group rides the following week. Anecdotal as no HR or power to go from, but if you have seen improvement like that, it can’t be a bad thing…

  7. @Roy

    Has any one else got a similar story from their first round of base training? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone…..

    Yes for sure, same experience and I have fielded questions from others along the same lines eg “What’s wrong, the HR Zones have me riding at 20km.hr?” so it is common.

  8. @prestachuck

    Every now and then, I set off with hard work on my mind, then once out on the road I find that I just don’t have any firepower in the guns (My body’s way of saying “Welcome to your fifth decade.”), so it becomes a recovery ride.

    this I know. Have the same problem, being 49++ my body doesn’t respond as it used to. Seems my guns needs much more rest between hammer rides now.

  9. @Roy

    The fine print on using these HR zones is that you need an established aerobic base before the HR zones are useful for training. Without an aerobic base, your HR sits in a high zone even on slowish rides, leaving you wondering what it all means.

    I am two years into a comeback to racing after 20 years. I spent my first year training “as hard as a could” My HR was going straight into a high zone 4+ on all the rides, all the time. Even on slower rides I had a HR around average 180 beats per minute. Forget interval training when that is happening – you are already doing an interval when going down the street to buy the paper.

    Through the internet, I learnt about the concept of base training and I did some further reading. I then spent about 20 weeks training mainly in the low HR zones, below 140 BPM. At first I had creep along to do this and avoid all hills. The base rides were embarrassingly slow (20-22kph), and my friends were all laughing as they left me behind. Nothing seemed to be happening for about 6 weeks and then I noticed that my average speeds were getting faster at the same low HR. After about 10 weeks, I bettered my fastest average speed on a 50km solo ride (30kph), with my HR 40 beats lower than before. Amazing how easy it felt.

    Now that I have done a round of base training, the HR zones in the article are useful for interval training. The Tempo zone now feels tempo, before it was slower than a normal training ride and didn’t make sense at all.

    Has any one else got a similar story from their first round of base training? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone…..

    Maybe I should look into this. Just recently bought my first HR monitor. never had one before. It’s scary. I’m always in 140 – 150, in the mountains, sometimes up to 170. When I get home after a few hours ride, the damned thing tells me I was In Zone 11 minutes with an average of 144…
    Not sure if it’s fixable, maybe it’s just age. I’m in quite decent shape, although not as fast as I was 15 years ago. I invented a new race class level. I call it OTS. Old, Tired & Slow

  10. @WindDrifter It’s worth downloading the Sufferfest RubberGlove workout, with that you can easily establish your zones, I did it Oct last year then spent the winter pootling around    in zone 1 and

    2 for hours on end, and with Ventoux and The Alps coming up in 5 weeks “the numbers are looking better than last year”  ©C FROOME

  11. Merckx have mercy, especially on V V day, but I’m a DNS today. I just had a jour sans yesterday and blew big time.

    I was fine for the first couple of laps – there were two climbs on each lap, one short power climb and one longer climb, about 4m45s. I had no trouble and thought I could do well. Then on lap 3 I started to struggle and had to chase on, and by lap 4 my matches were burned through. Nothing left.

    There’s nothing in cycling more depressing than seeing the peloton edge away and disappear.

    I’m a bit down about it. I know from previous stage races that I usually have a bad day but I was hoping this time would be different. I’ve trained better and harder, I’m stronger and I tried really hard to get my nutrition and eating right. Maybe it’s just an age thing. I wasn’t the first or only one dropped, to be fair, but still…

    I could finish for the sake of crossing the line, and would normally do that, but it’s a holiday here in the UK and as I don’t get that much time with the family I’m going to spend the day with them rather than grind it out. Lord knows my wife is highly indulgent of my cycling but there’s no point spending credits for little return.

  12. @Roy

    The fine print on using these HR zones is that you need an established aerobic base before the HR zones are useful for training. Without an aerobic base, your HR sits in a high zone even on slowish rides, leaving you wondering what it all means.

    I am two years into a comeback to racing after 20 years. I spent my first year training “as hard as a could” My HR was going straight into a high zone 4+ on all the rides, all the time. Even on slower rides I had a HR around average 180 beats per minute. Forget interval training when that is happening – you are already doing an interval when going down the street to buy the paper.

    Through the internet, I learnt about the concept of base training and I did some further reading. I then spent about 20 weeks training mainly in the low HR zones, below 140 BPM. At first I had creep along to do this and avoid all hills. The base rides were embarrassingly slow (20-22kph), and my friends were all laughing as they left me behind. Nothing seemed to be happening for about 6 weeks and then I noticed that my average speeds were getting faster at the same low HR. After about 10 weeks, I bettered my fastest average speed on a 50km solo ride (30kph), with my HR 40 beats lower than before. Amazing how easy it felt.

    Now that I have done a round of base training, the HR zones in the article are useful for interval training. The Tempo zone now feels tempo, before it was slower than a normal training ride and didn’t make sense at all.

    Has any one else got a similar story from their first round of base training? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone…..

    Tell me more about this base training you speak of Obi Wan.

    Yep… same situation here with the high beats per minute smashing straight upto high 170’s.

    So you are telling me to go faster ( on average ) I first must go slower ?

  13. @Chris Wiggle Jurassic is next weekend if you want to hook up for an Imperial (if it is not full)?  Went over to the IoW yesterday for a circuit of the Island which was a nice circuit, planning to go back and do it from home (vs just getting dropped at the ferry) to make that an nice Imperial day at some point – subject for a Cogal?

  14. @ChrisO That’s a bit of downer, you haven’t caught MERS from interfering with camels, have you?

    Not a bad call on sacking today to spend it with the family, Rule #11 aside, keeping them onside is a must.

  15. @Teocalli After writing a whole article about not being able to let anyone ride past, you’ve just admitted to being dropped by a ferry?! WTF?!

    Wiggle Jurassic – I’d love to but I’m going to the Twickenham 7s. Speaking of Imperials, didn’t you say you’d come to Cambridgeshire to do a double Imperial at Flat Out in the Fens?

    The idea of an IoM Cogal sounds good, it could turned into a Stage Cogal.

  16. @Chris Being dropped by a ferry does not sound like a good outcome……..

    I was going to come over for Flat Out In the Fens (not sure about the double Imperial though!) but it clashes with L’eroica Britannia.  Though happy to come over that way sometime.

    IoM?  I was talking about the IoW.

  17. @ped

    @WindDrifter It’s worth downloading the Sufferfest RubberGlove workout, with that you can easily establish your zones, I did it Oct last year then spent the winter pootling around in zone 1 and

    2 for hours on end, and with Ventoux and The Alps coming up in 5 weeks “the numbers are looking better than last year” ©C FROOME

    Thanks, I’ll check it out.
    Another strange thing I noticed, when I’m tired at the end of a ride, going up a hill, my heart beat only goes to 140, the same hill early in the ride, I go up to 170? I go more or less the same slow speed, but my guns are tired and all the V leaked out on the road behind me, still on the last uphill run my heart rate is much lower?? Am I sick? Will I die? Is this normal? Go figure!?

  18. @WindDrifter

    Maybe I should look into this. Just recently bought my first HR monitor. never had one before. It’s scary. I’m always in 140 – 150, in the mountains, sometimes up to 170. When I get home after a few hours ride, the damned thing tells me I was In Zone 11 minutes with an average of 144…
    Not sure if it’s fixable, maybe it’s just age. I’m in quite decent shape, although not as fast as I was 15 years ago. I invented a new race class level. I call it OTS. Old, Tired & Slow

    Ok, without looking douchey, I didn’t have HR etc on in the example I gave above for the benefits felt after a slower ride, but I do have HR data from other training.

    I can tell you Winddrifter that HR’s are very much individual, and I have had all sorts of evaluations on my ticker. Your HR would be low for me. Hill riding I’m at 180-185, redline about 197. Average on a hard ride about 160. My resting is between 40 and 50. I am not old, I’m not young, I’m not fast, but I’m not particularly slow either. From what I understand your max HR will reduce as you age, but I am not sure if that is true for continuously active athletes, or just people who get more sedate the older they get.

    HR can be altered by fatigue, temperature, nutrition on the day, even for the same effort. Then you are of course altering HR directly through your effort.

    Many coaches see power as the ultimate number. I run HR just to make sure I don’t suffer arrhythmia out there, and not power at all.

    I see HR as looking at the health of the engine, and power as looking at the VP (short for V Power, for we are not horses) at the wheels.

    Wisdom would say if you are not fully fit, the HR numbers would come down for the same power output/speed with more appropriate training. But as one coach told me, it is more likely you will continue to push as hard as your body can take, so your HR will be the same as before, but you go faster for that given HR.

    But wtf do I know, I’m just a disembodied keyboard jockey across the interweb. Buyer beware and all that.

    If you are worried, go see a doc, or you can alter your training to see if it changes things. Do the same, expect the same. If you want to train more in zone 1 or 2, slow down, until as the others say, your speed eventually comes up. Then report back!

  19. @Beers

    @WindDrifter

    Maybe I should look into this. Just recently bought my first HR monitor. never had one before. It’s scary. I’m always in 140 – 150, in the mountains, sometimes up to 170. When I get home after a few hours ride, the damned thing tells me I was In Zone 11 minutes with an average of 144…
    Not sure if it’s fixable, maybe it’s just age. I’m in quite decent shape, although not as fast as I was 15 years ago. I invented a new race class level. I call it OTS. Old, Tired & Slow

    Many coaches see power as the ultimate number. I run HR just to make sure I don’t suffer arrhythmia out there, and not power at all.

    I think this is mostly my reason too. Being old as f*ck I thought it might be a good idea.

    But wtf do I know, I’m just a disembodied keyboard jockey across the interweb. Buyer beware and all that.

    Looks like we are in the same business.

    Yesterday was good. Came home from work feeling tired and fatigued and without motivation, but managed to get into my cycling gear and go for a ride anyway. what happens? I was flying! Hammer ride, fastest ride this year. Not that this says much about my speed, but anyway. Even managed to take the final mountain(well, bump in the road) in the big ring!
    I hate that hill, I always have to go that route when I want to ride back home, it’s 11 km uphill, not much, maybe 4% or so, but when you’ve been out for a while, your guns will burn.

    And HR was normal.

  20. @WindDrifter

    @Beers

    @WindDrifter

    Maybe I should look into this. Just recently bought my first HR monitor. never had one before. It’s scary. I’m always in 140 – 150, in the mountains, sometimes up to 170. When I get home after a few hours ride, the damned thing tells me I was In Zone 11 minutes with an average of 144…
    Not sure if it’s fixable, maybe it’s just age. I’m in quite decent shape, although not as fast as I was 15 years ago. I invented a new race class level. I call it OTS. Old, Tired & Slow

    Many coaches see power as the ultimate number. I run HR just to make sure I don’t suffer arrhythmia out there, and not power at all.

    I think this is mostly my reason too. Being old as f*ck I thought it might be a good idea.

    But wtf do I know, I’m just a disembodied keyboard jockey across the interweb. Buyer beware and all that.

    Looks like we are in the same business.

    Yesterday was good. Came home from work feeling tired and fatigued and without motivation, but managed to get into my cycling gear and go for a ride anyway. what happens? I was flying! Hammer ride, fastest ride this year. Not that this says much about my speed, but anyway. Even managed to take the final mountain(well, bump in the road) in the big ring!
    I hate that hill, I always have to go that route when I want to ride back home, it’s 11 km uphill, not much, maybe 4% or so, but when you’ve been out for a while, your guns will burn.

    And HR was normal.

    You lucky B’stard, I would love a hill that was 11km long at 4% ! Damnit man, it’s on the way home, and think how strong it will make you. Love the work.

  21. Great article! That is the type of information that are meant to be shared across the internet.
    Disgrace on Google for no longer positioning this post higher!
    Come on over and visit my site . Thank you =)

  22. This concept does not apply to me, so I don’t have to worry about it:

    – unfortunately I don’t ride enough hours / week to merit a recovery ride (family, job etc yes I know Rule #11).  On a good riding week I might get in 10 hrs but usually it’s fewer.  Not only do I not merit one, but I feel like I need to make the most out of my rides, you know so I get faster.  It’s possible I’m not doing it right.

    – within my puny limits, like Teocalli I’m competitive, and have a hard time resisting passing other riders when I can.  And when I pass them, do I slow back down?  No, I don’t want to be that guy so I maintain my speed as if I was carrying it all along.  Of course then I may encounter another somewhat faster rider and the process repeats itself.   So pretty soon what was supposed to be a gentle say 28kph ride has elevated to a 40kph rip and I’m boy racer – the idiot.

    – I don’t, nor will I ever, own a HR monitor.  I refuse to take myself that seriously.  I like the Zones converted into conversational difficulty – maybe I should tape that to my stem.

    I’m real steel too, so the carbon bike notches a la Red Baron is appealing thanks for another reason not to recovery ride!

    And, of course anybody blowing by me must just be starting out on their short after work sprint or working on intervals or something, while I’m returning from an epic slugfest.

  23. @SurlaCraque What frameset are you riding?

  24. @click here

    Great article! That is the type of information that are meant to be shared across the internet.
    Disgrace on Google for no longer positioning this post higher!
    Come on over and visit my site . Thank you =)

    Well crap!

  25. @unversio

    @SurlaCraque What frameset are you riding?

    circa 1987 Rodriguez

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