Commuting and recovery

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  • Commuting and recovery
  • submarined

    Morning all,
    I started commuting by road bike (c9.5 miles each way) about 2 months ago – really enjoy it, and it’s definitely making me fitter, however I’m having trouble balancing the rides and recovery.
    I started with the target of 2 days per week, and have slowly ramped it up, now aiming for 3 or 4 with a break in the middle.

    I did monday, tuesday, thursday last week as I knew I was going riding on saturday morning, but I cut my saturday session at Stile Cop short as I was just too tired.

    I’m an MTBer at heart, tbh I see road riding as training – so I make use of the commutes with proper warm ups, sprint the hills, and try and maintain speed on the straights. I’ll never be a road rider, I just want to be able to keep going longer on the trails at the weekend.

    My issue is recovery. Is setting a 3 or 4 day target unreasonable full stop, or is it something that I need to work up to? Is there anything I can do to speed up recovery? I’m trying chocolate milkshakes/ Protein recovery things after the afternoon commute, eating a good diet, and getting as best sleep as I can.
    I’d love to be able to do a full week eventually(on weeks where I’m not riding at the weekend), but don’t know if this is feasible.

    Any advice appreciated 🙂


    Definitely do able. Try not to race every day. Pootle on Thursday if you are riding on Saturday. I used to do a commute about 4 miles longer than you and the difference between race and pootle was 15 min.

    Premier Icon prawny

    Its definitely doable, I ride from up by the pye green tower to the centre of birmingham 5 days a week and still ride at the weekend (at least in the summer) and sometime before or after work too.

    It will take a while though, I started riding to work full time in december 2015 and it took until the spring for me to be fit enough to ride at the weekend too.

    Step it up slowly, eat straight away when you get to work and the same when you get home, eggs for breakfast are good too. The most important thing is to nut rush it, I wear a HRM to make sure I stay in zone 2 on the way to work when I can just leave earlier, it’s a free for all on the way home though.

    This time of year hurts though, there’s no getting around that.

    Premier Icon linchpin

    I’m no fitness expert but it seems to me like you might be pushing too hard. I commute that distance but don’t make a training session out of it. It’s made me fitter to the point where I don’t notice if I go a bit harder one day. I’d say go easier, do it every day until it feels easy, then start pushing.

    Premier Icon turboferret

    It sounds like you’re going for it on the road, at the expense of your weekend MTBing. I’d treat some of your commutes as gentle potters instead of attacking all of them full-bore, should be good for recovery.

    I’m currently doing something similar, but running. I take it really steady to work, but step it up on the way home.

    Hope it works and you continue to gain fitness.

    Cheers, Rich


    I commute about the same distance every day.

    I found at first that any additional ride was harder going, although I was fitter. It’s taken literally years to get used to it to the point that I have anything in my legs for mid week and saturday MTB rides.

    I’ve found that I can ride pretty hard both ways every day, but I will be tired for any weekend riding. I think I’d end up overdoing it if I did that every week even with one hard ride at the weekend.

    If I have a couple of rest days, and even some easy weeks, thrown into the mix, I can get out with the club mid week and at the weekend and really have the legs for it (I don’t tend to plan these much, but if my legs feel bad at the beginning of the week, I’ll take a fairly easy week – no sprints, and a couple of proper slow recovery rides).

    If I tried to do 2 hard rides plus commuting hard I would undoubtedly end up shattered, not enjoying it, and most likely carrying injuries.

    So yeah, accept it will take a long time (think of a long time, double it, and then look back a bit later and see how you were still improving after that time!) to adapt to the extra workload, and you need to not be treating every day as a high intensity training session (though by all means treat some days as that!).

    Oh and eat and sleep properly, it goes without saying.


    Cheers all, reassuring to hear 🙂
    I wouldn’t say I go for it every day – Commutes range from 31 minutes ish to 40ish on a slower, more relaxed day, so I do mix it up a bit. I’m not super fast by any stretch of the imagination though.

    I guess one of the things I’m trying to figure out is what’s the best way to train my body to recover more quickly – if it’s to ride one day, rest the next, or if it’s better to ride a bit more frequently (but slower) and ‘acclimatise’ my body. I don’t want to get too much into the science of it for fear of taking away the fun 😀
    Disclaimer: My biology knowledge pretty much ended at GCSE Double science. 20 years ago.


    Or to rephrase all that I’ve written – if you take it at a reasonable pace, you’ll be able to do a full week AND a weekend ride no bother once your body is used to the additional work.


    I find a gentle ride helps things recover more than no ride, but there is a school of thought that recovery rides are just for hyperactive roadies that can’t leave the bike alone for the day, and I’m not sure what the science says.


    I faced this same problem when I was commuting similar distances- I loved the commute, but my enthusiasm for riding at the weekend completely evaporated. The answer is two rest days before the weekend- so ride Monday-Wednesday, rest Thursday and Friday. Done! 🙂

    Edit- the two day rest period is particularly pertinent to you as you are doing sprints, which are edging in the direction of the resistance training end of the spectrum in so far as it is a higher load/fewer reps type of exercise, and therefore it may be helpful to think of it as such, meaning that your legs are not getting the necessary recovery time if you are cycling alternate days. Rest days are as important as the exercise! 🙂


    I find a gentle ride helps things recover more than no ride, but there is a school of thought that recovery rides are just for hyperactive roadies that can’t leave the bike alone for the day, and I’m not sure what the science says.

    iirc, the science doesn’t say anything. The theory however is that a very slow ride encourages recovery by increasing blood flow (and hence nutrient delivery). In addition there’s the also unproven theory that more pedalling increases pedalling economy.

    My thoughts are: If feeling a bit sore but not too tired, a recovery ride is good. If feeling genuinely tired, a nap on the sofa is better.


    I guess one of the things I’m trying to figure out is what’s the best way to train my body to recover more quickly – if it’s to ride one day, rest the next, or if it’s better to ride a bit more frequently (but slower) and ‘acclimatise’ my body.

    if you were writing a training plan; you would have easy days, rest days (off the bike) and hard days. You’d also have a recovery/ consolidation week every 3/4 weeks.

    So week 1-3 Mon-fri 2 days easy, 2 days hard, one day off. Ride at the weekend.
    Week 4 mon-fri 3 days easy 2 days rest. ride at weekend.


    Prawny, just out of interest which route do you take to work?

    Premier Icon prawny

    @scruff Straight down the chester road normally, went through Pelsall and over the Beacon today though out of boredom, wasn’t any better.


    hi mate, first of all congratulations, us regular cycle commuters are a special hardy breed especially those who ride through the whole year; welcome to the club!

    I too class myself as primarily an MTB’er but i also found out that i was exhausting myself on the ‘training’/cycle commute and feeling rubbish on the weekend fun rides.

    That’s a big clue that you are doing too much too soon. Slow down a bit or don’t smash yourself on every commute, it’s not a race.

    This is a massive change to your previous habits and your body needs to get used to it.

    Also make sure you are hydrating properly. Even though you may feel cold at this time of the year you are still sweating plenty and need to replace that lost water and salts too. Some Nuun tablets or similar on a regular basis should help to replace those vital salts.

    And finally, if you are feeling tired don’t be taken in by the MTFU rubbish, that’s just what it is, guff spouted on the internet. Take a day off, recover and then go out the next time feeling much better.

    I’m 53 and cover about 10,000km a year and most of that is via cycle commuting. It’s all about taking your time and building up to it.


    I do 15-17 miles each way 4-5 days a week(all year round),usually my rest day is when I do a kit change over.I go as hard or as easy as my body feels like and that often depends on what work has been like. Not sleeping, eating or drinking properly has more of an effect on my energy levels.
    I don’t feel tired out at the weekend,but i have been doing this bike commuting for a long time.
    As MTB says,just go with how you feel,unless you see another commuter,then it’s “target acquired” 😉

    Premier Icon senor j

    I always go slow on the way in to work.(and only a little bit faster on the way back 😉 )

    Premier Icon edhornby

    given that you started only two months ago, and you’re doing 10miles each way five days a week going into the winter, and riding on the weekend as well this is quite a jump. However by April/May you’ll have adapted and be flying

    personally I would;
    ride on Mon, tue, wed
    use Thursday as a non riding day and take in clothes etc for the week into work
    commute Friday

    eat and drink the right stuff also helps, a small bidon with those electrolyte tabs I would use for a 10mile commute


    I’d agree with what eveyone’s saying apart from electrolyte tabs which are unproven* snake oil. Water with a bit of orange juice for flavour or lemon juice if I’m out of fresh orange.
    *one very shakey study from >100 years ago.


    Do you use a HRM? maybe think about investing in one. That way you can focus on keeping your heart rate down, which will stop you over exerting and help improve your base fitness

    My commute in is only ~4.5 miles and I’m rarely ready early enough to do anything but a “best effort I can muster” on each given day, for the three days per week I work.

    On the way home, I usually extend my commute, unless I’m feeling completely wiped or I have to urgently get on with something straight after work.

    Typically, the homeward-bound commute extension is a few small hill climbs, if I’m up for it I will try and do at least a few at high intensity. But other days, like today, I do “recovery ride” style hill climbs where I would rarely go above ~130bpm if I was wearing my heart rate monitor… Pootling up hills in 24/30 and 24/28 today, but it kept me outdoors while feeling quite cream crackered and not sure if I’m coming down with another bout of manflu.


    What they all said. 100 miles per week commuting is a decent mileage even if you mostly take it steady, it will get easier over time though. It will also keep you fit and healthy for free so a habit well worth persevering with.


    Have a think about how much you’re ramping up the volume. Rule of thumb is around 10% a week max and then a rest week every few weeks.

    Also I’d just use the week day rides as base and just take it steady while building up the mileage (no hard uphill sprinting.) Then you’ll be able to make the weekend ride a hard one.

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