Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recovery based Training - Part Two

Almost a year has gone by since I posted my theory on recovery based training. Here's a link to the original post (Recovery based training (part one)). But in short, the idea was to schedule the next training session based on how much recovery has occurred since the last hard ride or training session. The measure of the recovery was my morning rested heart rate. In the last year, I followed the program fairly consistently and some results are in. This is an experiment of one, so the results are particular to me. But the results have been interesting . . .

Reader alert- this post is a number crunching geek out from an amateur. No fancy prose, pics or funny commentary. You have been warned. Read on at your own risk. 'Nuff said.

Figuring out how to measure:

I think that if bike training is working you should be able to increase distance or increase speed or increase both. As a long distance rider, I wanted to increase both. I also think that if you are training well, these improvements should come without getting sick, burned out or "overtrained."

Changing too many variables can obviously skew results. In an outdoor sport like bike riding, head to head comparisons of specific rides are unreliable because even the same course can produce different times for the same rider at the same fitness level due to weather conditions, drafting and hydration or food intake.

If the rider changes too many things about himself, that can also change results. For example, weight loss. Losing or gaining weight can affect rider performance even if other fitness variables remain the same.

So to make this look back a little more useful, some information about the baseline may be helpful. In 2011, didn't lose or gain any significant about of weight. It fluctuated a little seasonally as always but within the same range as 2010. I believe my overall mileage increased, but I don't how by how much because I don't track mileage outside of Randonneuring events.I just ride when I can, including bike commuting.

Taking these considerations into account, I looked at the results of 2010 and 2011 to see if there were any observable overall trends that may have come from a year of recovery based training in 2011.

Times and Distances:

2010 - I rode 1926 Kilometers in 9 RUSA events (starting in April). All but one event was "200k" . The other was 300k. My average time for a 200k was 11:58 ridden in September. The fastest time was 11:12. I rode at least one 200k event a month since April 2010.

2011- I rode 3739 Kilometers in RUSA events. From April to December (the same time covered by 2010) - I rode 3135 Kilometers in twelve events. That included one 300k, two 400k and one 600k. My average 200k time was 10:45. The fastest time was 9:20 ridden in November. I rode at least one 200k event, or longer, every month.

Other effects:

In 2010, overexertion after one ride lead to the need for medical attention. I also experienced a few light colds. My fully recovered, resting heart rate was 47 bpm.

In 2011, no sick days, not even for colds. My fully recovered rested heart rate was 45 bpm.

Some thoughts:

Clearly, I rode longer and faster in 2011 than in 2010. The results of 2011 are consistent with an increase in training. I doubled the longest distance I rode and increased my average completion time for 200k by over an hour. It is also clear that I built on the mileage and training from 2010.

What is less clear is that in 2011 I rode more distance at a higher average speed with no sign of overtraining. No feeling of burn out, no persistent dead legs, no recurring sick days. In 2011, I was able to increase both volume and intensity and do so over the course of the year. That is what good training should accomplish.

Granted - I did not "peak" for a specific event; however I did not have a period with significant drop in performance either. For me, Randonneuring has been a year round sport. Since I am not racing, peaking for a particular event is not an issue. For me, being able to put in a solid ride at any time of year is more valuable.

These fitness improvements came without a set plan other than to let my level of recovery dictate the level of training effort for the day. Train hard when rested. Take it easy until you have measurably recovered. It seems to be working.


  1. Nigel, you had a great year in 2011. However, since you only track RUSA mileage, it may or may not be true that your mileage is up. In my case, I went from 2876 RUSA km in 2010 to 3831km in 2011 (not including 1240km for PBP). However, my mileage for the year was down from 7800mi to 7600mi.

    Also, rando finish times are only somewhat correlated with fitness. In the first year or two, you get faster with more experience. On the other hand, if you rode more PA events in 2011, the finishing times may be underestimating your fitness improvement since the PA courses are generally hillier.

  2. Thanks Roy - It was a good year yes but not quite great. The others are quite valid points. I admit I don't know for a fact whether my overall mileage is up since its possible that I decreased mileage in between events to recover more fully. As for the correlation between finish times and fitness, I also agree its not a direct relationship but an hour improvement in average 200k times, doubling the longest distance, and increasing the number of events seems to have higher fitness in common. But to me, the significant thing for this model is not measuring how much my fitness improved but that it improved without running into overtraining.

  3. Excellant work with the consistency.

    And Jeeze: with you speeding up and me slowing down, I'm looking forward to a nice long ride together, soon!

  4. Thanks Bill. The consistency is a by-product of enjoying the rides and enjoying the learning curve. Now I can look forward to that ride too.

  5. I like three things about this. It makes sense, it's self-adjusting, and it's simple enough to remember without visual aids.

    Actually, four things, and this might be the most useful one for me: I just don't have an existence that allows me to predict my available riding time (all-nighters come out of nowhere, clients have fires just when I thought I'd be free, etc.), so this is something I could use as a sensible organizing principle when I finally find myself with time and I'm not sure how best to use it.

    I like sensible organizing principles. They reduce dithering.

  6. If you try, let me know how it goes.

  7. Started logging pulse rate this morning.