Getting Over A Bad Ride Or Workout And How To Prevent The Next One
Everyone has them. From beginners to local heroes, to the greatest cyclists of all-time, every athlete suffers a bad. While some rough days have no good explanation, most of the time, we can identify what went wrong and how to deal with it before tomorrow.
Un jour sans, a day without. An empty tank. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all ridden with a pal who’s turned their head to us and said, “I got nothing” with that resigned exasperation that signals today is just not going to be their day. When it happens, there’s often nothing you can do to fight it, but when you’re home and ready to look at it, you can often find out what went wrong in the days and weeks before. We’ll take a look at a few causes and solutions, plus take a look at what you can do the next time you get on the bike.
Eat and Drink For What's Next, Not Just Today. If you watch a big stage race like the Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana, you might be a bit puzzled to see riders taking the time to mow down a bar or gel even in the final kilometers of a race. Riders even risk time penalties to take feeds or water in the final 20km of a race, and even when they’re caught, they usually say it’s worth it. Why eat for the last ten minutes of a race? For pros, they’re not eating for those final few miles; they’re eating for tomorrow.
While you may not be doing three-week tours, but changes in food and water intake can have impacts that reach days into the future. Skipping meals, cutting calories, or forgetting to drink water at work or on-the-go might not affect you immediately, but that deficit might rear its ugly head thirty or sixty minutes into your next ride or workout. Not eating on the bike, too, can lead to crazy drops in glucose; you can literally feel unbeatable for forty-five minutes, only to feel like your energy has fallen off a cliff all of a sudden. The key to both of these problems is to eat consistently and monitor calorie intake before and during rides, and understand that dieting while training means that while you may lose weight, you’re going to lose energy somewhere along the line, too.
No, Really, Get Some Sleep. It’s obvious; if you didn’t sleep last night, you’re probably not going to be a bundle of energy the next morning. Sometimes the effects of too little sleep can be brushed off, but the combination of stress and lack of sleep, two things that tend to go hand-in-hand, often leads to some disastrous days in the saddle. The best solution is to back off; talk with Lauri about adjusting your workout, or if you’re at home, consider cutting that 3 hour Out and Back into a more digestible 25km loop. If you end up feeling okay, don’t push it too hard; there’s a reason your system is off, and riding yourself into the ground isn’t going to solve it.
Sick and Tired: Battling Fatige, Allergies and Sickness. While spring and summer allergies get a lot of attention, fall is prime time for mold allergies. Especially with school back in session and more time spent cooped up inside, cold and flu bugs are also making the rounds. Sometimes a bad day on the bike is a sign that your body is already fighting something, and illness is right around the corner. Your body is working hard to fight off allergy symptoms or a cold, and working extra hard on the bike might move your sickness from a few subpar days to a week of full-blown, off the bike and on the couch illness. If you’re getting sick, back off.
Another great sign of this is your heart rate. For most riders, being unable to raise your heart rate through exercise as you normally would is another sign that you’re either extremely fatigued or fighting something. If your body just isn’t there, don’t overdo it. Missing a day or two is far better than losing two weeks. Fatigue is really the same story; if you’re exhausted, you’re not gaining anything by struggling for three days when one easy day might be what it takes to get you back to your best.
For riders who have been training hard all spring and summer, October is a prime time for season-long efforts to take their toll. The bad days are a bit more common, and the depths they take you to can be far uglier. If you’re pushing four, five, or even six thousands miles this year, make sure you talk to Lauri about the volume you’ve already got in your legs and focus on getting the most out of our rest days and recovery weeks. At this point in the season, the volume and miles are there; it’s more important to sharpen up the short stuff and focus on intensity rather than try to stack up 10, 12 or 14 hour weeks.
The Day After. So, you had a disaster day at the Hive and you’re waking up to another work day and a ride after. First, take a look at what was different in the two-three days leading into your bad workout. Did you eat well? Did you get some sleep? Do you have any symptoms that might lead you to believe you’re getting sick? If everything seems to check out, good; you had a bad day, and there’s no reason to think you won’t come back stronger. If you still don’t feel energetic and motivated, take a rest day, or consider putting in an easy hour. And we mean easy. A real recovery ride should see you more than capable of chatting with your ride partner, not sweating, and not breathing hard. If your grandmother was along for the ride, she might drop you. Yeah, that easy
One bad day doesn’t define you. This spring, Simon Yates led the Giro d’Italia for nearly all three weeks, only to lose over fifteen minutes on the general classification on a single climb in the final week, ultimately shipping over forty-five minutes on the stage, losing the race leader, the podium and slipping outside of the top ten all in one day. He and his team studied his diet, his sleep, and worked to prevent levels of fatigue, taking that knowledge to the Vuelta a Espana and winning it. If you have a bad day, have it, then get it out of your head.