Rest Weeks Between Training Cycles

Piecing together your racing calendar is not really that difficult. There are many races available to do and racing is a great way to get into shape. Creating a racing and training program which actually brings you to a peak on the races you have selected as your goal(s) takes experience, training, and good record keeping of your weekly training calendar. One of the bigger challenges is finding time to rest and recover so you can train and race to your maximum ability. First you have to decide on the race(s) which are your absolute goals for the season. From this point on, and I can not emphasis this enough, you stand the best chance of a good performance at your peak race by planning out when are your rest times. After you actually schedule in your rest days and weeks you can then fill in the rest of the racing calendar.

Most asked Questions

  1. Does a rest week mean I take the whole week off?
  2. Does a rest week mean I can not race?
  3. What is the difference between a rest day and an active recovery day?
  4. What is a sample rest week?

Your yearly training program contains two different kinds of training cycles: The micro-cycle and macro-cycle.   The micro-cycle of training (weekly training plan) includes, on average, two days of rest or recovery riding per week. The other type of training cycle is called a macro-cycle. Each person’s body works on an individual cycle lasting from generally 4-6 weeks in which you can build and sustain a programmed workload and then within that cycle have a rest week. Both systems are extremely important to understand for physiological and psychological reasons. On a day to day basis you must understand when and how to rest for the best chance of 100% recovery from that days workout as well as the ability to give 100% on the next days training.

Physically the rest time helps to build your muscular system you actually break down the muscles during a workout. It is only during recovery time that the muscles recover after which you can continue the building process. Physiologically; if you do not rest you run the risk of mental fatigue. Usually burn out happens after an extended period of time being over-trained. You just can not motivate yourself to go any faster or be able to handle the pain in your body. Therefore if you do not rest well between daily workouts (micro- cycles) or monthly blocks (macro-cycles) then you will be less likely to get the most out of the next training block, feel flat racing, have little snap in your legs, and eventually reach a level of being over-trained.   I see this as a bigger issue in areas where training and racing is on option 12 months a year (i.e. California). This is not to say you can not ride your bike all year. It just means that the importance of planning your rest days and cycles increases significantly. Each day’s activities (training, resting, nutrition, sleep, etc…) affect your racing and the year as a whole.

You can ride and race during a rest week, but you need to pick a week that you are not trying to do one of your most important events. Rest comes at the end of a harder training cycle and you are already tired. During the rest week you will be riding with much less intensity and volume allowing your body to recover. The Saturday and Sunday during your rest week can still have an endurance ride or race. But remember, your legs are still recovering before the next work cycle so you might still have tired legs. Try to schedule your rest week two weeks before a more important event which gives you time to get your legs moving again.

Once you have determined when you have a scheduled rest day or rest week one might wonder what does that mean? Taking a day or days off seems harder sometimes than going out to train hard. First of all we love being out riding our bikes and a day off is torture. Secondly, the ability to push through pain is what makes for a good racer. BUT… the discipline to know when to push and then the discipline to relax and recuperate is what can make you a winning racer. Remember that resting is as much for physical reasons as well as psychological. You have to be recuperated and ready to get back out on your bike for the next macro-cycle. Training every day at 85% is not the same as focusing 100% for the days task at hand whether that be 100% max heart rate efforts or a 100% total recovery day.

Resting does not always mean not riding at all. You will need some days totally off the bike and other days that are active recovery days. A week of rest will involve a combination of total rest and active rest.

Key Terminology

Micro-cycle: A period of training of approximately one week.

Macro-cycle: A period of training including several micro-cycles; usually an entire season.

Over-trained: Extreme fatigue, both physical and mental, caused by training at a volume/intensity higher than that to which the body can adapt.

Burn-out: Mental and Physical fatigue associated with extended periods of over-training.

Rest: This is your chance to take a day off to rest and also to get your week organized for having time for the other training rides coming, get more work done, etc…

You do not have to take the day off if you feel like doing an easy ride. This is simply a “rest” day and all activities should reflect that goal.

Active Recovery: An easy ride, light pressure on the pedals in Z1 to Z2.

Sample Rest Week

You will continue to follow the basic schedule of your riding. The total volume of your riding will decrease by approximately 20% per ride and all workouts are done at one zone lower than normal. Keep a cadence on your rides between 85-95 rpms. If you want to learn more about training I recommend reading The Cyclist’s Training Bible, by Joe Friel. Check at the local library to see if they carry it in stock.

Monday: Rest day

Tuesday: High Cadence Ride: 2-2.5 hours (you can still do the twilights)

Wednesday: Endurance Ride or Recovery Ride: 2-3 hours zone 1 & 2

Thursday: Just Ride (Zone 1-3). 2-2.5 hours (can include hills)

Friday: Rest Day – no pre race pyramids even if you are racing tomorrow.

Saturday: Endurance Ride or race ~3 hours. W/O #1-“light” *

Sunday: High Cadence Ride or race ~2 hours. Z1 &2

*workout #1 “light” (will equal your endurance block during your rest week or if you are recovering from a cold or injury)

  • 3 x 10 minutes on the flats (riding in Zone 2 at approx 85 cadence)
  • 2 x 15 minutes + climbs (progressing from high Z2 to Z4)