There’s always a flip side. A headwind becomes a tailwind; a climb gives way to a descent. This contrast of opposites is part of the allure of cycling.
All through May and June I could feel my form building with perceptible gains every week. I was on form for 5 glorious weeks in July and August: grinding up alpine climbs and time-trialing at 22 mph across the flats. Fellow riders would ask politely if I could slow down the pace a bit. Some others started referring to me as a BEAST. I don’t think I’ve been called that before, but I’m pretty sure it was meant as a compliment.
But then came the flip side. Our bodies cannot stay at peak performance indefinitely. Life happens: you miss a few rides, other responsibilities call out, you eat garbage for a few days because you think you can get away with it…and the like. I heard my body telling me it was in no mood to go as fast, as hard or as long. My inner Godzilla wanted nap-time in his schedule, and a kinder, gentler routine.
The fitness physiology gurus say that energy production on the cellular level simply needs to take a break. ATP [Adenosine triphosphate] is a major vehicle for transporting food energy in the form of glycogen to fuel the cells in our body. No one knows for sure when this energy system needs to rest from the constant high demand of competition – only that eventually an athlete will see the signs and symptoms. We need to rest and rebuild…hit the reset button, so to speak.
And so, as I work toward the end of the cycling season, I’ve reduced mileage and intensity. It sounds backwards, but even after 5300 miles of riding, I needed to press that RESET button. After a couple of weeks of rest, I’ve been building back to the point where I can ride a few more centuries while the uncharacteristically nice October weather lasts in Northern Minnesota.
Endurance athletes tend to love reaching peaks of performance – we are driven to press further and dig deeper. But we need our flip sides, too. We build, we peak, we rest, and then we reset and rebuild. Cycling has taught me that rest is a valid and important component of strength. It’s a necessary counterpoint in the rhythm of training, and a reminder that we do this because it’s ridiculously fun.
That is why we do this…right?