Updated: Nov 29, 2019
I understand the basic principles at play here: overload, followed by rest and recovery leading to adaptation. But the actual business of cutting down on riding immediately after completing my adventure has turned out to be hard to manage. When I finished my ride at the Rapha Cycle Club in Soho last Tuesday afternoon, I already knew I would be riding again the next day. I said to myself I will go for a little spin just 'to keep my legs turning over’. But when a club mate from WLRCC messaged me to say ‘let’s go and ride so I can hear all about the adventure’, the intended 20km ride turned into 55km. But it included free cake and that's always a good thing.
But this was not giving my body time to recover and adapt, so this week has seen a concerted effort to stay off my bike. This is somewhat easier on days I have to go to London on business, like I did this Monday. Except that I always use Boris Bikes to get around, so I was still adding 10km a day to my weekly volume. Not much you might say, but I have been studiously recording my Boris Bike rides over the last two years, originally to see how much money I was saving in tube fares. Earlier this year, I went over the 1,000km mark on Boris Bikes, which shows that lots of little rides can add up over time. It has also saved me over £1,000.
I studiously avoided the Club’s weekly Bash, which is a shortish ride ridden at a very high pace on Tuesday evenings and went for a gentle evening spin in the Warwickshire lanes with my wife on Tuesday. Wednesday was restricted to riding to Club HQ (the restaurant Dough & Brew in Warwick town centre) on a hybrid for a Committee meeting, and Thursday was back on the recovery ride. So far so good. Just 101km in the week, all at low speeds with some stretching sessions thrown in for good measure. But by Friday I had cracked. The combination of continued great weather, the Tour on the TV and friends asking if I am available to go out again, meant I ended up doing a brisk 46km. A family party forced me to miss out on Saturday, but Sunday is the big club ride day for almost every club in the country and I was desperate to find out of my body had both recovered and had a training effect from the two week Adventure. I rode in a faster paced group than normal and got in a two hour ride averaging 29kph. I was delighted with this because I genuinely felt stronger and felt like I could cope with the pace and indeed push it along at times. There was even a shout from behind me that I was in ‘hooligan mode’ – perhaps the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in a sporting context. I really wanted there to be some dividend from the adventure and all those kilometres up and down mountains and across cobbles and it seems like there is.
But one ride does not make me Chris Froome and there are dangers to over training or failing to recover that I need to be wary of: the training effect can plateau and you start to get smaller and smaller gains, your body has suppressed immunity meaning you are more likely to pick up infections, the damage to the muscle tissues takes time to repair, there can be mental fatigue and even your nervous system needs time to recover. All of these things are in turn affected by your age and the balance of active and passive recovery you strike. There is a huge amount to think about if you are going to get this right. It’s not just about staying off the bike. It’s also about eating the right food to get antioxidants into my body (fresh fruit and veg). I have utterly failed on the last point. Nutrition is the one the one big barrier I have yet to cross. Looking back on my adventure, I have no doubt now that I caused many of my own issues through poor nutrition on and off the bike. Like my aversion to stretching, it is something I will have to overcome before my next long adventure.
Oh yes, there will be another long ride.