If I’m not riding, coaching or racing, I’m indulging in one of the most important cycling activities there is; inactivity. Yes, you read that right. Inactivity. Let me explain.
Most of us are pretty busy. We run hither and thither, doing our job, completing our chores, holding up our end of the family bargain. When we’re done with that, its straight out on the bike. Down the road, up a hill, down a mountain. That type of thing. Many of us are trying to be the best rider we can be. Working on skills. Packing in the miles. Monitoring performance. In short, life by the stopwatch, HRM and Strava segment. The net result of all this? We’re getting quicker, stronger, better, right? Not necessarily. Tired minds and tired bodies lead to weary performances and lethargy.
I was reminded of this at the velodrome recently, chatting to a friend of mine, a successful cyclo-cross and MTB racer. To save blushes, we’ll call him Dave. I ask Dave how his sessions were going. “Hard” came the response, accompanied by a steely pair of eyes recalling recent hardships. “Joe* is just back from racing abroad. He’s FIT. Kev is flying. All the boys are shifting. I can barely hang on”. “But Dave” – I muse – “That’s got to be good for your training, surely?”. There was a long pause. “You know, I’m not bloody sure”.
Dave knows his body, there’s very little we can teach him about training, but habit or belief, has kept him coming back for more, when perhaps, just perhaps, a little inactivity is the training ticket.
Back in the mid-90s I was regularly racing across two sports; running (Road/track/cross-country/fell) and Duathlons. In 1997 I remember vividly suffering with a nasty virus which I couldn’t shake off. After 5 weeks of struggling with diminished energy levels and occasional bouts of dizziness, I was diagnosed with post-viral fatigue. It took a further 7 weeks to shake off. I have no doubts that my cycling and 70 miles a week running habit worked in tandem with a virus to give me a yellow card; take 12 weeks in the sin bin for overdoing it.
So I guess the message is……inactivity is ok. NO. It’s better than Ok. It’s essential. Give it equivalent importance. If you’re feeling tired, respect it. Perhaps play with inactivity a bit. Take a day off. Did you feel better? How did you perform after? Wallow in your new found sedentarism. Turn the lights down, swing your feet up, sip a drink (alcoholic or not, you choose), stick some music on, let your body enjoy what it’s earned. Rest.
*Names changed to protect the guilty as charged.
Top image: A quiet corner of my home. Above: My suggestion for unwinding.