Optimizing rest days, recovery workouts and taper weeks translates to increased productivity during hard efforts. Know how to maximize your rest so that you can get faster and make the most of your training plan.

For more on rest, recovery, tapering and other topics check out the Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 196

The Components of Rest

Recovery weeks, rest days and taper weeks are all essential parts of structured training. While they might seem similar, they are not interchangeable and each serve their own unique role in a structured training plan. Understanding the importance of rest and how you can actively adjust your rest in correspondence to how well you recover can greatly benefit the productivity of your training and ultimately make you a faster cyclist.

How to Maximize Recovery Weeks

The last week in most training blocks is a recovery week. Recovery weeks parallel the structure of regular training weeks, but with shorter workouts that have little to no intensity. These workouts are all about active restoration and should continuously promote your recovery. When you complete a recovery workout give it the same focus and attention you would give any other workout. Recovery workouts are not time fillers or junk miles, they have their own innate value and contribute to the productivity of your training plan as a whole.

During the recovery week you may not feel as rested and recovered as you anticipated, in fact the recovery workouts might even feel a bit difficult. This is due to training stress accrued throughout the training block. This stress adds up, and can make the easy workouts tough to complete. If you feel fatigued during your recovery weeks, don’t worry! Stick to the training plan and with enough rest and active recovery you should be feeling good and fresh the following week.

That being said, when you complete each workout pay attention to your body’s response to the workload. If you feel like you need to cut any of your workouts short or lower the intensity, err on the side of caution and do so. At the end of a recovery week you should feel more ready to take on the next week of training than you felt at the beginning of the week. If you aren’t feeling ready to conquer a new training block this is an indication that additional recovery might be warranted.

Taking Time Off

Rest days give your body a chance to recover from training stress accrued each week. When you have a rest day you shouldn’t complete any active recovery workouts or off the bike training. This includes yoga, weight training and active recovery spins. In fact, a rest day will be most beneficial if you can put as little stress as possible on your body.

While stress can’t always be avoided, and daily life provides its own natural stressors, try to avoid any activity or practice that might inhibit the productivity of your rest day. This includes putting unintentional stress on your body by fasting or cutting calories. It’s important to fuel your rest by consuming balanced meals, and while cases vary, fasting does have the potential to limit the productivity of your rest. Remember that productive rest days translate to productive workouts.

A structured training week will have at least one rest day, but our low and mid volume training plans will have anywhere from two to three structured rest days per week. Sometimes an extra big training block warrants multiple rest days back to back. This is okay though! If you ever need a little extra rest, take it.

Outside of injury, illness and travel, if you find yourself needing more than a few days off, this is an indication that your training load might be too high. If this is the case, take a moment before you jump back into training to reflect on your performance, and decide if a lower training volume would be a better fit. A lower volume completed as a whole, can be more productive than a higher volume hindered and cut short due to lack of recovery.

Tapering and Taper Weeks

A taper week is composed of structured workouts that sharpen your fitness for your priority event. Taper weeks are time specific and generally completed before priority events. A taper week is most effective when it is completed at the end of a full training progression.

Within your taper week you will complete workouts that integrate recovery and intensity in a combination that keeps your legs fresh but rested. The workouts are short, the recovery is long and the intensity is right where it needs to be.

Just as you would during a recovery workout or rest day, try to reduce any outside stress or intensity that isn’t outlined in your taper week. Focus on completing the workouts effectively, taking rest where you need it, and fueling your workouts and recovery with balanced nutrition.

The Importance of Rest

For some athletes it can be difficult to warrant taking a day off the bike, or spending a whole week on recovery workouts. But these aspects of training are key to the productivity of future training blocks and workouts. Knowing how to optimize rest through active nutrition, focus and care, can make a big difference in the efficacy of your training plan and the progression towards your goals.

For more cycling training knowledge, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.