Slow Down to Speed Up: The Importance of Rest and Recovery

I tend to learn things the hard way — often I need to live through the same life lessons a few times before they stick.  Persistence and tenacity have helped me progress quickly in terms of cycling skills, but they can also get in the way of forward progress.  This blog post is equal parts a cautionary tale AND a reminder to myself of how important rest and recovery can be.

Usually I’m motoring along, training and racing per “the schedule” and it isn’t until an event or ride goes horrifically wrong that I notice that something is off.  It usually starts sneakily – I go on my routine group ride that is normally quite doable and I get dropped … and then it happens again.  I begin dreading rides, but tell myself that I’m “just being lazy”.  After a few weeks of this comes a some sign I can’t ignore — it could be bonking and requiring a bailout ride home on a ride, or a race that I just couldn’t finish.  

From the depths of frustration, I turn introspective and start analyzing. I analyze things for a living so this process comes naturally once I get rolling. I’m an engineer, and I should really know by now that energy is a finite resource – you can’t create energy once the pile has been exhausted.

The accumulation of stress and fatigue is sneaky.  It’s relatively easy to track how many hours you train per week and keep that in check, but how can we quantify the drain that we experience from other life stresses? Has work been busier than normal? Have the kids been particularly cantankerous? Is your family healthy? Is something wonderful going on, like an upcoming wedding, that also requires your time and energy?

I don’t have a scientific recommendation or magic formula to solve this equation — it requires introspection and self-awareness.  If I could have it my way, I would receive an email or text telling me that I needed to skip a workout, go to bed early, or opt out of plans!

I’m headed into high volume training over the next two months, preparing for the major cycling event of my year. Here are a few areas where I’m letting myself scale back in order to support my training goals AND keep my sanity.

  • Reevaluate your plan and ask yourself if its actually realistic.
  • Let the house get a little messier than usual.  Or if you have the means, outsource cleaning and treat yourself to a one-time maid service!
  • Purchase more “ready to eat” items from the grocery store or eat more healthy, prepared foods.
  • If you have the time and space, make more meals ahead of time or cook larger batches of food on the weekends.
  • Pare down family activities – focus on the ones that have the greatest impact for you or your kids.  Maybe swimming lessons can wait this month!

All that being said, sometimes life is unavoidably stressful and hectic.  You may need to reevaluate your training schedule or postpone an event until the following year. Unforeseen things come up that you can’t work around — forgive yourself and modify your goals.  Energy is a finite resource, so spend it wisely!

Photo credits: Melissa Hunter

PrintMelissa is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!

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About Melissa Hunter

I’m a newer cyclist who gravitates towards non-pavement rides of absurd distances. I find peace when I’m in the woods or out and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I tend to be tenacious, driven, and maybe a little stubborn too.

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