Last year my sole goal was to hit 10,000 miles on the bike throughout the year so I was taking every opportunity to ride the bike as often as possible, regardless of the speed so that I would hit the mile counter each week. The consequence being that my legs were pretty tired for most of the year as I was consistently averaging over 300 miles a week. Fast forward a couple of months and I've set a new goal of getting back into racing in 2016 and things have changed; now I have to do less miles to make the most benefits. The problem is, that doing less miles is something I mentally struggle with quite a lot. In the back of my mind the more I ride the fitter I will get surely? Well not exactly. I have convinced myself over the years that riding lots and lots of miles will make me fitter and stronger and as such when I miss a day on the bike I get frustrated that I must be getting less fit by the day and so always want to ride my bike no matter how far.
The idea of riding everyday was fine when I was trying to beat a mileage goal but unfortunately when it comes to gaining speed and racing you need to knock back the miles and focus on the intensity and structure of the miles you do instead. So rather than riding 300 miles a week i'm now doing closer to 200 miles a week and spreading these miles out over the week a lot more so that I can have a rest in-between each session. Equally, rather than riding at a steadier 16mph i'm consistently putting out averages about 20mph now.
Again my mind struggles with this concept of a rest day. Riding 20mph averages over any distance isn't the easiest day out and is guaranteed to tire you out but for some reason I think i'm a robot that can avoid this and still want to ride every day like I used to; this is something I need beating out of me I think!
The point being, it's really difficult for a lot of people to convince themselves that having a day or two off the bike every week won't hamper their progress but instead will more likely benefit them massively as they are less fatigued when they ride so will be able to go faster and further than they would if they rode everyday. It's okay to do less as it really does give you more!
So how have I convinced myself that more is less? Well i've started wearing my heart rate monitor again and renewed my subscription to Strava premium which unlocks the 'Fitness and Freshness' graph on your dashboard that can be used to give you a rough insight into how fit or fresh you are on the bike in an easy to follow graph. I've followed the graph over the last few weeks and seen that riding every day really does add to your overall fatigue and slow you down, but when you rest for a day or two your fatigue drops really quickly but your fitness barely moves at all.
It's still hard to tell myself I can do less and get fitter but it's working so I might as well carry on, no matter how much my head argues with me! I've seen some great improvements but I don't think i'll ever quite convince myself it's the right thing to ride less.
Do you find yourself trying to train more and more?