Learning to ride slow

When I first started riding seriously, I had two speeds – “fast” and “flat out”. This was OK if I was only riding once or twice a week, but push it past the 3 times a week mark and I was finding myself suffering from fatigue, restlessness, and poor mood. After a couple of weeks this would lead to illness, in one case it lead to a bad case of the flu, punctuated with a mild case of pneumonia.

So, the whole point of getting out on the bike is to have fun. Sure, it’s real fun to ride fast, but it’s not much fun to do it all the time. It took me a while to learn this. Just google “overtraining” and you’ll find a wealth of information on the topic, and one thing mentioned is “recovery rides”. I only recently learned what a “recovery ride” meant, and it was not from the Internet or any of my training books.

Regardless of what your riding mates might think, a recovery ride isn’t spent at 40km/h instead of 50km/h on the straights, nor is it about going a couple of minutes below your average on the local 4km climb. A recovery ride is, as I have once heard it been said by a well respected coach, “a ride at a walking effort”, thus if you feel like you’re running or dying, it’s not a recovery ride.

The best way of learning what recovery pace is, is to go for a 30 minute walk to somewhere and back along the same route with a heart rate monitor attached, record the walk using your garmin or whatever speedo you have, and then see what the average heart rate is. For me, it sat at around 105bpm, which some people say is high, it is considering that my resting heart rate is around 60bpm.

From that point, you can set the heart rate alarm in your speedo to go off at 10bpm above this limit so you know when you are pushing it.

Otherwise, if you don’t have a speedo, focus on your stress level, this is basically made up of three things: your speed, your breathing, and your heartbeat. If you can notice any of them, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard.

How to tell if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard during the week? If you can find your pulse and have an alarm clock next to bed, count the number of beats between the changing of the minutes on your clock. This should be constant every morning – if it goes up at all, you’re probably heading towards your limit. Google “overtraining in cyclists” and you’ll find a wealth of information.


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