Recovery is a huge topic and includes a lot of different things. Muscle soreness and energy levels are part of it, but there are many aspects to recovery both short and long term.
For muscle soreness specifically there are also “DOMS” - or delayed onset muscle soreness that will occur when you utilize muscles in ways they haven’t been used in a while. The classic is starting a weight lifting program after not having lifted in a while. There was a podcast a year or two ago where Coach @chad and @Jonathan did a pretty deep dive into this. I see DOMS as different that the feeling you get after multiple hard interval workouts, which is more fatigue based and requires “recovery” to bounce back from.
The way I look at it is breaking “recovery” down into different time frames.
- Day to day
- Week to week
- Month to Month (and even year to year)
I) Day to Day:
Recovery day to day means fueling your workouts properly so you have the energy stores to get through it. Eating healthy, balancing carbs/proteins/fats and possibly taking a recovery drink after a hard workout are all important. Planning your weekly schedule is also important. Spacing out the interval work with easier rides will help you recover. Some soreness is normal but must be distinguished from injury. I see massage guns, pneumatic boots, massage therapy, yoga/stretching all as important body maintenance items that don’t necessarily help “recovery” but help with preventing long term issues and keeping your body working well so you can continue to train.
II) Week to Week
Mapping out your training plans. Having “on” weeks follow by “off/recovery” weeks is important. The training during the on weeks will slowly wear the body down but the off week will allow you to absorb the training and come back stronger for the next block. Typical pattern is three weeks on, one off. It’s not unusual to feel heaviness/fatigue in the legs toward the end of the three week block from the accumulated work. This tends to dissipate during the recovery week. If there are lingering pains during the recovery week it could be signaling some other issues like an overuse injury.
It’s during the week to week training that chronic problems with poor sleep and nutrition can be identified and can lead to poor performance, plateauing of fitness and reduced motivation. The maintenance work (yoga, massage, etc) also is going to help with keeping your body functioning well and reducing chronic issues.
III) Month to Month/Year to Year
This is where the Base/Build/Specialty work comes in, or some variation of the theme. The thought is you can really knock out hard interval sessions for so long before physical and mental fatigue become a factor. Having a training plan that changes the stimulus throughout the year, while keeping your intended goals in mind, helps with allowing your body to recover but also continue to build year over year. Again all the maintenance type work is going to help here too, but the over-arching training plan is also very important.