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Is More Always Better? Not Always

As the warmer weather sets in, many of us increase our overall training volume by adding more time to our weekend exercise. This is a good thing for the most part, but we must consider the fatiguing effects of this extra volume and increase the emphasis on recovery. Our weekly routine of cycling intensity and strength work remains the same, but we're adding significantly more hours on the weekend, increasing our volume. This has a big impact on our bodies and energy systems.

One mistake many athletes make is not considering the recovery needs of this extra volume. Even though we have great weather approaching and ideal training conditions, be careful with how quickly you ramp up your weekend activity. Put together a plan that increases slowly over the next three to four weeks. Your body can handle small increases in overall volume, but if you're bound and determined to ride significantly longer after the frustration of bad weather and uncertainty of how long it will stay nice, you may want to cut back some of your weekday training intensity to accommodate for your bigger weekend training blocks.

Other things to remember as we head outdoors for some longer swims, runs and rides are to make sure our equipment is ready, we are exercising good form and our longer workout nutrition is dialed in. An extra consideration for cycling: cars have not seen many bikers outdoors in the past few months and need time to react to cyclists. The roads are also a bit of a mess from the tough winter and spring we have had this year. Take it slow and be cautious when reintegrating with cars and other cyclists that are getting back to sharing the roads together.

As we gain fitness and grow our ride confidence we need to keep track of some simple recovery metrics to make sure the extra volume is making us faster and not just more tired.

  • Sleep: Make sure your sleep quality feels good. They have devices that measure these things, but you can judge it yourself. If you have three bad nights in a row, chances are you’re fatigued and need a rest.
  • Mood: When you feel a little down, cranky and short-tempered for a few days in a row, you may need a rest. (Check your diet as well. Sometimes we get hangry because we are not eating enough.)
  • Numbers: Look at your data. Your pace per hundred in the pool, your pace per mile when you’re running or your power output when you’re biking. If those numbers are stagnant or drooping slightly and you’re training a bunch, you need a rest. Your first instinct may be to train more, but if you were improving and then you increased training and stopped improving, you need to rest, not train more!
  • Motivation: If you start to question “why” or are having a hard time “wanting” to train, you need a rest. This also relates directly to the three points above.

So, in summary, enjoy the excitement of warmer weather. It brings the opportunity for longer swims, runs, rides and other activities. Just do yourself a favor, increase slowly and keep track of the impact of the extra volume. If done correctly it will take you soaring to new heights.