Maybe your lack of progress is not about the way you train. Recovery is often overlooked or underestimated because cyclists feel like it is secondary to riding. But it’s recovery that is the powerful key to breaking a plateau. Let’s see how fixing the way you recover can help you improve as a cyclist again.
It can be tricky to recognize when you have enough rest in your training plan. That’s because the nature of all training is overreaching, doing more than your body is comfortable with to stimulate adaptations. The hope is that you are able to recover from that and start the next session that much better. But if you start overreaching further than your body is able to recover, you can hit a plateau pretty quickly.
Does every day feel like a bad day?
If every day you’re training feels like a bad day, it’s a clear sign that recovery is an issue for you and you overreached a bit too much. If you feel stale and flat in the saddle and it’s not getting better for days or weeks, you have to look at your nutrition, rest, and sleep.
It could be daunting to understand how to recover better. There are so many supplements, special treatments, and tactics that professional cyclists use. While all of that is true, for most of us amateur cyclists, the most important thing is to get the basics right. Here are four bits of advice you should focus on first. Follow the included action points and see how different your rides will be.
Build recovery into every mesocycle
A mesocycle is a training block that lasts about one month and is designed to improve a specific aspect of your fitness. Every block like this should have a built-in recovery at the end. This will ensure your rest and recovery is scheduled and you don’t have to worry you’ll make a poor judgement call.
Action point – Try a popular 23/5 pattern where you gradually increase the load for 23 days and follow that up with 5 days of easy spinning for recovery.
Don’t get caught up in stats
Watching your fitness grow and times improve can motivate you to keep increasing the training load. The thought of spending the next 2 days resting just when you started feeling strong feels wrong. But breaking your plan and adding extra load stretches your ability to recover and can result in a plateau rather than further progress.
Action point – Stick to your training plan, even if you sometimes feel like you should do more.
Improve your sleep
Sleep is such an important part of recovery that you might be surprised how big of a difference a good night of sleep makes. But how do you get a good night’s sleep? There are a lot of things you can try. If you want to explore the topic further, check out our series on sleep.
Action point – Sleep 10% more. Get to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual every night. If you do this regularly, you will improve not just your sleep quantity but also quality.
Make sure your nutrition matches your training
It’s very easy to overeat as a cyclist if you reward yourself too much with food after each training session. And it’s just as easy to undereat if you try to restrict your food to keep a lean racing weight. The goal for cycling nutrition is to eat just enough to be able to go hard on the bike but not too much so your body has to deal with excess calories. That’s the best way to avoid a training plateau caused by nutrition. The best approach is periodised nutrition of the “fuel for the work required” approach described in our previous series.
Action point – Get an extra portion of protein and carbs on a hard training day. Cut back on sugar on easier days.
Attack the plateau from all angles
Training plateaus can be especially tough because you never know which aspect of your training is holding you back. That’s why we covered all of them in this series. Any time you feel like you are not progressing, use the following checklist to identify the problem and return to the corresponding blog post to see if you missed something.
- Keep track of your progress with a training journal
- Adjust training volume
- Use training intensity in a smart way
- Improve your recovery
- If you do all of these things right, there will be nothing standing between you and consistent progress.