Going out to relax your legs is underestimated and few cyclists do it properly
We are all aware of the importance of active recovery, but few of us go for gentle rides, often thinking that it is a waste of time to pedal at a walking pace or, in their eagerness, they end up pushing on a day when they shouldn't be doing so.
Going out to relax your legs is also training
When the subject of recovery rides comes up, the phrase heard from several trainers usually comes to mind, who agree that the big mistake most cyclists make is "not going slowly enough when they have to go slowly enough, so they can't go fast enough when it's time to go fast enough".
It is clear to all of us that rest is an indispensable part of training; it is what helps to assimilate the exercise loads applied and allows the body to be prepared for new stimulations that will make it improve.
To elaborate on the subject of recovery, it has been proven for years that it is preferable for recovery to be active rather than total rest, with a very gentle activity that allows the training routine to be maintained and, in turn, makes recovery more effective by oxygenating all the body's tissues, as well as freeing the head from the demands of more intense training sessions.
Up to this point everyone is clear, however, when it comes down to it, few people include this type of training sessions in their programme, considering them in many cases to be a kind of waste of time under the deeply rooted idea that if you don't go full throttle with your heart in your mouth, you are not training.
How to go out to relax your legs correctly
In other cases, there are active recovery rides that often start with a lot of good intentions until the first hill arrives or a group of cyclists overtake us at full speed, at which point the good intentions are forgotten, transforming the session into something totally counterproductive for our training.
A ride to relax the legs should not go beyond two hours and always try to keep the intensity as low as possible and a high cadence that avoids straining the muscles. To maintain these premises, it is vital to choose a mainly flat route or one in which the few climbs can be overcome effortlessly by simply using lighter gears. It is also important to be as constant as possible, avoiding stops and starts which in the end add power peaks that are not desirable in this type of training.
Obviously, we must keep an eye on our power meter, moving at no more than 55% of our FTP or, easier still, going at a pace that allows us to carry on a conversation in a totally fluid manner.
A very simple way to comply strictly with the parameters of these sessions is to take the opportunity to go out with a companion of a much lower level, the typical friend who is just starting out on the bike or who only uses it occasionally. Many even take advantage of these rides to ride with their partners or children.
Whenever we can recover in this way, it will be positive to accelerate the rate of recovery, which in the long run always allows us to introduce higher training loads that will lead us to a better state of fitness.
Sometimes, however, if the week is too loaded with hours of cycling and you have to juggle sporting activity with your daily life, coaches prefer not to add any more stress and set complete rest days. Even on these days, it is always preferable to introduce some kind of activity, such as a special stretching session or unloading the legs with the foam roller to facilitate recovery as much as possible before the next hard day.