Definition of recovery

On the podcast and the forum when people talk recovery, Ie: getting good sleep, eating nutritious foods, using massage guns, ice baths, recovery drinks. Are they talking about legs feeling sore or are they talking energy levels, or both?

As a relatively young person at 28 I seem to only really struggle with leg soreness coming into multiple targeted interval workouts a week and none of these things seem to really help much with that.

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.

  1. Day to day
  2. Week to week
  3. 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.


Yeah, at 28 you’re going to recover a lot quicker than most (and probably be able to get away with a few more bad habits :stuck_out_tongue:)

However, the benefits of recovery periods and modalities are pretty comprehensive and not always obvious. At 23 I’m in a similar position, but as my training load has increased proper recovery has become a lot more crucial, and the little things start to matter a lot more.

  • the point about base/build/specialty cycles above is really important. Simply put, an appropriately periodized plan that allows adequate recovery will make you faster in the long term.

  • It’s easy to focus on your legs/muscles, but the rest of your body- joints, tendons etc- are stressed during the course of training and need to adapt to the increasing amount of work your body is able to do. Also consider your heart- much as you can’t maintain max heart rate for long without a decrease in output, you can’t just hammer it day in day out without negative consequences to your performance and/or health.

  • your glycogen stores get depleted during the course of a workout and also over the course of a training block if you’re doing a large amount of volume, so recovery periods give you a chance to “restock” and make sure you’re not behind on the next session/block/whatever. This is particularly important if you’re carrying a heavy training load or doing double days.

  • General quality of life. Ever done an epic ride, fallen asleep on the coach and then been absolutely wrecked afterwards? Paying attention to recovery can make a huge difference in how you feel/operate during the rest of your day.

  • Allowing your stress levels to return to a more baseline level. Having things like cortisol chronically elevated- through training or otherwise- can lead to a host of long-term issues.

  • Mental/logistical factors- giving yourself some downtime and coming into workouts rested means you’ll have a higher success rate and in turn greater motivation. It also makes it a bit easier to fit training in with whatever else you’re doing, so you can be more consistent.


It is worth looking into the discussions around the difference between recovery and adaptation. After a hard workout, you normally want to focus on approaches that maximise adaptation, but if you are in the middle of a stage race and need to perform at your best the next day, you should focus on recovery. The theory is that some things (like anti-inflammatory drugs) can help with recovery, but do not help your body to maximise adaptation.