Training hard is part of cycling, but so is taking a day off

Cycling isn’t just about getting a good bike -- it’s also about learning how to become a great rider. Join a live web chat on Monday, July 18, at 11 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. CT, 2 p.m. EST) with top cycling coach Joe Friel and learn tips that will make your training more efficient.

Friel is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified elite-level coach and has written 10 books on training for endurance athletes. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., he has a master’s degree in exercise science and is the founder of the Web-based TrainingBible Coaching.

While a serious training program is essential for building endurance, speed and strength, so are recovery days. Although athletes are often reluctant to take a day off -- or even trade a heavy workout for a light one -- Friel considers rest an integral part of training.

“I tell the athletes I coach that the hard training days only create the potential for fitness,” he said. “They don’t result in fitness improvements unless there is rest. During rest the body adapts to the stresses of exercise. Muscle strength and endurance improves. The heart’s stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per beat) increases. Capillary beds in muscles grow, allowing the heart to deliver more oxygen. Aerobic enzymes increase. Blood volume increases, further enhancing oxygen delivery. Glycogen stores are restocked, allowing for harder workouts in the following days.”


A day of complete rest is best for novice cyclists, he added, but as fitness improves adding a little exercise is OK. “If they take the day off from exercise the day after a ride they will improve greatly,” he said. “As their fitness improves the recovery days are better spent doing some light exercise, such as cross training.”

Advanced cyclists can do some riding on a recovery day -- riders on the Tour de France do it. “This maintains some of the most basic gains made in previous, harder sessions, especially pedaling economy,” Friel said. And for everyone: “The harder the hard workouts, the easier one’s recovery days should be, regardless of one’s level of experience or fitness.”

Do you have a question for Joe Friel? Email and join the chat to see the answer.