Getting Faster by Going Slower

1007_mountainsI know it sounds a bit like an Eastern philosophy where people smash bricks while trying not to. [And I DO totally respect people who can punch holes in masonry…] It’s one of those less is more, and more is less riddles: you get faster by going slower. For quite some time I didn’t get this.

RECOVERY? Hah! Not for me, brother! Go hard all the time, that’s my motto. And so I did. But I began to notice I was tired a lot, and began feeling burned out by the beginning of August. The only cure, said I, is to crank it up another notch. And so I did. That usually lasted for about a week, and then I didn’t feel like riding at all. And so I didn’t. For two seasons in a row I hit September, [the best riding weather of the year], and hit a wall.

I had become so fixated on my average speed, that I never warmed up at the start of a ride, and never cooled down before rolling into the driveway. If I eased up, 19.0 could very well be 18.9 at the end of the ride – as if that would somehow be the end of the world. There were some pretty fast rides…but then came the mysterious plateau. I couldn’t improve any further, and found my wheels stuck in the sticky mud of dying motivation. pain-suffering-cycling

A depressed endurance athlete is a veritable portrait of sad dejection. Take all that weird energy that won’t allow us to sit down for long, and channel it into beer and Cheetos…McFood and a McShake…pick your poison. Trade your bicycle seat for a seat on the couch. Start making excuses while drinking your breakfast coffee, and conveniently sabotage the rest of your day by staying late to TAKE CARE OF THINGS at work [over-eat when you get home]. All the while, the entire business is gnawing a hole in you because you’re helplessly smitten by love for the bike, and the places it can take you.

Yoga and active recovery became a necessary part of my vocabulary toward the end of last season. I’ll be 55 in a couple of months, and I can’t burn the candle at both ends like I used to, and shouldn’t have in the first place. I don’t ignore the word RECOVERY DAY in my training plan anymore. I go hard for three days, and then feel the accumulated tension drain from my legs with an hour of low intensity spinning on the rollers. Add an hour consisting of yoga, foam rolling, and myofascial release, and I feel pretty stinking good.

I’ve proven over and again to myself that nurturing my body is every bit as important as any fitness goal. On the bike I now have a training page on my Garmin with only elapsed time, cadence, heart rate, and percentage of FTP. NO SPEED. Instead of mashing all the time, I do structured intervals that include soft-pedal recoveries. I’m having more fun, and oddly enough, getting faster by going slower.

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Beauty isn’t very often measured by how fast you’re going.

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