View Full Version : How to measure recovery?

Lewis Moon
08-30-2013, 08:14 AM
So...how do you measure recovery?

I ask this because, at 56, I'm kinda struggling with being able to (semi) accurately judge my recovery. As a kid I'd run two workouts a day during X-Country season, but I know I need a lot more recovery time now.
In the past, I've had more than a bit of a problem with spontaneous combustion due to over training. I'd like to avoid that, but I get really ancy when I start to feel good. This happened earlier this week. On Tuesday I was scheduled for FTP+ so I really lit the torch and took 1.5 minutes off my PR on a local 5.5 mile hill climb. I couldn't see my Garmin so I wen't out a bit fast and ended up posting my best Power/HR numbers ever, by a long shot. For the rest of the day (at work) I really felt fried. Duh. That wasn't really the problem...what came after was.
I have a 3 day rest scheduled over the long weekend so I went ahead and did a tempo trainer work out on Wednesday afternoon and then, with rain threatening to wash out Thursday and friday, I backed that up with a tempo ride on Thursday morning. I really felt like I had nothing in the tank. No snap, no sizzle. However, I didn't feel too bad before the ride...at least not bad enough to not take the opportunity to train.
The weekend is (almost) here so I'm knocking off for a couple of days...but back to the original question: How could I have measured my recovery and avoided the crappy and (probably) counter productive workout?

08-30-2013, 08:21 AM
I think you will do better by following a more established training plan instead of an ad-hoc one. Rest is important in the training cycle. You need to be eating well too.

08-30-2013, 08:25 AM
Your cycling should leave you feeling good and tired but feeling good anytime you feel bad it is time to back off .
Simply put feeling good is good
Feeling bad is bad
I put everything in simple terms because I have t.b.i
I teach yoga and that is a yoga philosophy too
Cheers. Best of luck in the beautiful sport

08-30-2013, 08:33 AM
There are so many factors that could cause you to bonk. Dehydrated, bad diet, ate To close to riding, didnt eat at all before riding, knowing when to maintain you cadance and not busting your nutt all in one hill or section of a climb. Sounds to me like you simply need to control your output better. Think of your body like a car. Once you are out of gas, you are not going to have the means to continue. Don't have a heavy foot on the pedal unless you have trained for it or know your body can handle the ride you are on that day. There have been countless times where go out in a blaze on a hill only to get half way up and wished I had simply maintained a smooth steady cadance which not only would save energy for the rest of my ride but I also would have gotten up those hills faster.

For me I gauge my recovery by how I feel after a long climb. If my cadance drops down to 50 because I'm dead and gasping for air, I know my recovery is weak. If at that same hill I'm powering away still after climbing, I know my recovery rate is good. That usually happens only when I'm able to ride 3-5 days a week which rarely happens.

08-30-2013, 08:37 AM
Heart rate

Lewis Moon
08-30-2013, 08:50 AM
Heart rate

I really should pay more attention to my HR when off the bike.

To address the “ad hoc” nature of my training… Training should be an iterative process that gets fine tuned the farther you go. I’m in that phase now and got hit with some bad weather days and made some ill advised “adjustments” to my schedule. Period. The schedule was to do a full rest Thursday and come back for hill intervals today. Had I a better measure of my recovery I wouldn’t have made those mistakes.
The utility of a rigid training schedule at this point (or any point) escapes me. The plan should always have room for adjustment due to fatigue/improvement.

08-30-2013, 09:17 AM
For me what I have always used from 19 until now at a 50 Is heart rate. In the evening I check my heart rate and when I first wake up before i am out of bed I check my heart rate it should be back to my normal resting rate 52 bpm. If it is significantly higher then I either do an easy spin, or some form of recovery ride.
This is just a rule of thumb for me with no scientific basis, but I find it is has helped me gauge my recovery all these years. And yes as we get older (is 50 old?) it takes longer to recover but the benefits of a good recovery out weigh the negatives of pushing it when your not fully recovered and do that next day of intervals. This is of course IMHO.
Oh of course a good healthy balanced diet, and I eat more lean protein as I have gotten older and that seems to have helped reduce my muscle soreness.

Have a great day.

08-30-2013, 09:59 AM
Try planning out your recovery rides as well as your higher effort ones. I rode a hard group ride last night and did several 3-5 minute pulls with my HR just below AT. This morning, I did an hour and 10 minutes of easy spinning before work. I find that I recover better and progress faster when I have planned recovery rides and stick to them as compared to just taking days off.


Lewis Moon
08-30-2013, 10:12 AM
So, how DOES one get an accurate resting HR?
I’ve always been told that it was best in the morning before your feet leave the sheets.
This is great if you:
A) remember
B) aren’t jack knifed awake by the alarm
C) can even find your pulse through the sleep haze
D) can lounge around a bit while you wake up

none of those match my circumstances…and I am NOT wearing a HRM to bed.:rolleyes:

08-30-2013, 04:45 PM
Heart rate

+1 Resting HR. It's not rocket science. Leave a watch by the bed or something. Do it on a Sunday when you might not need an alarm. You can do it - I have faith in you!

08-30-2013, 07:39 PM
For me, I watch my HR max and HR average from ride to ride. If I'm 'feeling bad' and I can't seem to get my HR to get up to Tempo (zone 4) level without a LOT of effort, then I figure I'm pretty close to overtrained.

When I measure my resting HR or use my HRM to do a resting fitness test ( it has the ability to measure the time between beats as well as resting HR ) on the days when my HR won't 'go up', the results from the test usually reflect a higher resting HR and point out that I may need some rest -- even active rest, like just walking for 3 to 4 miles easy.

If you go out on your ride and your legs hurt from the beginning and never feel any better, that's a sure sign that some rest is needed. I also find that drinking lots of water is helpful for recovery during such times.

Mike in AR:beer:

08-31-2013, 03:52 AM
So, how DOES one get an accurate resting HR?
I’ve always been told that it was best in the morning before your feet leave the sheets.
This is great if you:
A) remember
B) aren’t jack knifed awake by the alarm
C) can even find your pulse through the sleep haze
D) can lounge around a bit while you wake up

none of those match my circumstances…and I am NOT wearing a HRM to bed.:rolleyes:

But they're so comfortable to sleep in!

This is per my dr who has me monitoring daily. You're actually not supposed to do it right when you wake up, but ideally while still in bed but after you've been awake around five minutes. Which is fine if you can stay in bed when you wake up but I have little kids who are generally my alarm clock

In my case, I work from home so he has me measure after I get up, get dressed, get the kids settled / off to school, get in my home office, and have been in my chair sitting up with feet flat on the floor for five min

Earlyish in the morning after some still time sitting or lying down is the key, at least according to him

08-31-2013, 12:31 PM
Waking heart rate is a good indicator if you take it everyday and record it so you can compare actual numbers, not just some general impression.


The other sure principle to follow is that ANY sudden increase in quantity or quality of training may trigger what you just experienced. A properly periodized plan does not contain the message "oh crap I better get those big days packed in because it might rain later this week" missing a little may be better than driving your self to sickness or a place where normal recovery cannot happen -- because then you end up missing later on when you're too whipped to continue your plan.

You only get stronger when you get enough rest. Tearing yourself down too much so that you don't recover is a loosing proposition.

And I'll add that getting older makes it easier to beat yourself down past the regular recovery point. We have to train smarter than some 22 year old bulletproof kid.

08-31-2013, 06:47 PM
I just remembered I was reading a book called "Cycling past 50" by Joe Friel it is an older book, but has great info on staying fit past 50 and a good section on recovery for older athletes. Yes, you asked so how do you check resting heart rate, it just becomes habit for me but yes I don't wake up to an alarm clock, I lay around and slowly wake up then have a leisurely 1 1/2 to have breakfast, read, and ease into the day I find it makes my day much less stressful. I have always been a morning person though. Everyone here has had great advice try a few things mentioned and see what woks best for you.
Have fun

08-31-2013, 07:33 PM
With a powermeter you can check your training load. I don't remember what the various acronyms are but that one stands out - TSS.

Training plans - I haven't followed a plan for the last 20 years or so. For me it's not important enough to do that, even though I race. My races are my hard rides, the rest are just me exploring riding technique, remembering stuff I forgot, and seeing if I can hit particular benchmarks based on past experience. I ride when time/fatigue allows me to ride and I try to ride a minimum of 30 minutes the day before a race.

As far as fatigue goes you can go pretty deep, recover, and repeat. Being empty is a sign that you're close to your immediate cycle's limit (meaning before a rest day). It's different from bonking, which is simply not eating enough for the ride. If you are empty/weak/unable-to-motivate even if you sufficiently ate/slept then you're tired. Remember that other life events also wear you down - working, driving, any heavy labor type stuff (lawn work in 100 deg weather, shoveling snow in 0 deg weather, etc), taking care of kids or parents, etc. It's not just cycling, it's life.