How to Plan for An Active Recovery Ride

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :

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A recovery ride is often one of the most overlooked aspects of cycling. We all want to hard and fast. If you observe how pro cyclists train or talk to experienced cyclists, they will tell you that recovery rides are equally important. 

You need to go slower to go faster.

I know it may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true.

A recovery ride is where you take it easy, get the legs spinning and blood flowing after a hard ride the day before.

Why a recovery ride is important

The more you ride, the more stress you put on your body. There will come the point where there’s only so much training load and stress that your body can handle before everything starts to fall apart.

To reap the benefits from all the training, you need to give your body a rest for it to grow stronger.

This process is called supercompensation; where you stress the body beyond what it’s accustomed to and then recover. When your body fully recovers, it will overcompensate in anticipation of a higher training load, leading to a stronger you.

How often should you do a recovery ride?

Schedule a recovery ride the day after a long and/or hard ride. But if you’re just riding daily with a consistent distance and effort, try to slot in two recovery (easy) rides during the week.

For example, if your long rides are on Sunday, Monday will be your recovery day. Your next recovery ride could be on Thursday or Friday, giving you enough time to recover before the weekend.

Below, I’ll discuss nine ways how you can plan for an effective recovery ride.

Don’t join group rides

Joining a group ride is one of the fastest ways to ruin your recovery ride.

The objective is to ride slowly at your own pace. Things get worse when you join a fast group on hilly terrains, which will only make you fatigue even more.

Resist the urge for the day. There will be plenty of opportunities to ride hard and fast when you have fully recovered.

Maximum 90 minutes of ride time

You’ve probably done a long ride (4 to 6+ hours) the day before, which is why you need a recovery ride.

Plan for a ride that is no more than 90 minutes. For me, I prefer an easy 60 minutes ride. It’s more than enough for many of us to get the blood moving and muscles staying active.

Ride easier than you thought possible

One of the most common mistakes cyclists make on recovery rides is going too hard. Dr. Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen in the Training and Racing with Power Meter states that active recovery is below 55% of your FTP or below 68% of your maximum heart rate.

If your FTP is 300W, ride not more than 165W on average for the entire ride.

The effort should be similar to riding to your local grocery stores or cafe if you have neither. You should have a very minimal load on the legs. Just get them moving and spinning.

Spin your way through

The keyword here is spin. Keep your cadence high, preferably between 90 to 100rpm. Depending on your route and terrain, you can also choose to keep the gears on the small chainring to put a speed limit on how fast you can go.

Today is not the day for mashing the gears or strength training.

Choose a flat route

Stay away from the hills or rolling terrains as much as possible. You want to choose a flat route, ideally with minimal traffic, so that you can just focus on spinning your legs, relaxing, and recovering.

If you live in a hilly area, use the lowest gear possible and spin your way up those hills. Focus on breathing and pay attention to the power you put out. Alternatively, you can also do an easy spin session on the indoor trainer.

Don’t ride into the headwind

Never underestimate the effects of the wind. Ideally, the recovery ride should be in minimal wind conditions. There’s no fun riding into a block headwind on a recovery day.

Check the wind direction and strength and plan your route accordingly. If you’re riding into a headwind, choose a slightly downhill route to compensate for the headwind. 

As for myself, I prefer to ride a tailwind on a flat route for my recovery days.

More reading : Why Check the Weather Forecast Before Each Ride?

Skip bad weather

The recovery ride is not a be-all and end-all. If the weather is bad, it would be better to ride indoors or skip the recovery ride altogether.

After a long, hard ride in bad weather, there’s more harm than good done by exposing your already weak immune system. It might just be the catalyst to cause you to fall ill, wreaking havoc on all your future riding plans.

Plan for a coffee stop

There’s a saying among MAMIL’s; it’s not a ride without a coffee stop, and this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for a recovery ride. 

This is your opportunity to end the short (60 to 90 minutes) ride at your favorite local cafe as opposed to a mid-ride cafe stop where there are still plenty of miles to cover.

For myself, the only thing I have on my mind during my recovery ride is the post-ride coffee and banter at the cafe.

Catch up with old friends

As you get fitter and faster, your cycling buddies change too. The group you started riding with last time is probably not at your current fitness levels and can’t keep up with you on your regular rides.

Take the recovery ride as an opportunity to catch up and ride with them. Reminiscence the old time and don’t forget that they were the ones that brought you into the sport.

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