Four Myths About Recovery

Have you ever taken a challenging cycle class with an instructor who didn’t build in any recovery time?

I have. The instructor had a lot of positive things going for her – authentic enthusiasm, awesome music, a strong voice – but the core of what she is responsible for delivering was missing: a smart ride profile that set-up her riders for success. There are several steps to creating a smart profile, but one of the most important ones – how to use recoveries – is often the step that instructors skip. Why? Here are four reasons (and the myths fueling them) that I hear most often.

Myth #1 –  Riders will get bored if I use recoveries

It’s easy to get caught up in the I’ve got to kick my rider’s butts! mentality and think that no recoveries equal challenging classes. It’s the opposite: no recovery means your riders will find their own methods of surviving your class, usually in the form of light resistance and form disintegration. The most “kick-butt” classes allow riders to prepare their bodies and minds for each challenge, to give their all using good form, and to build confidence that they can do what you’re asking them to do.

And keep your promises! When you tell riders they have an upcoming recovery, deliver!  It builds trust in you as the instructor and the ride itself.  When riders trust what you say (recovery coming up!) they are much more likely to strive for the intensity you challenge them to deliver and that helps build a true kick-butt class!

Myth #2 – Recovery is only needed after the ride ends.

A smart profile aligns with how our bodies work. It starts with a warm-up and ends with a full recovery. Equally important is how we use recovery time in-between to prepare our riders for each challenge. Remember the work-to-rest ratios you learned in your certification class? They are designed to consider what your rider’s hearts, lungs and legs will need along the way to have a safe and productive fitness experience. It’s easy to get caught up in creating your profile’s challenges and forget that when you’re asking riders to do threshold and anaerobic efforts or short bursts of maximum power, they need sufficient time to recover their breath and energy.  Dust off your charts, but generally, for maximum power efforts (<30 sec.) use a 1:3-1:5 work-to-rest ratio and for anaerobic efforts (30 sec. – 3:00) use 1:2 to 1:4.

Myth #3 – All recoveries are created equal.

If you’ve seen or used my profiles, you know that I use the words “refuel” and “recover”.  I use the word refuel to acknowledge that each rider might need different levels of recovery after an effort depending on their fitness level, how they are feeling that day or if they didn’t reach and/or hold the suggested intensity level or duration for a particular challenge. Let’s say your riders are one-minute into a two-minute recovery. I coach riders to either continue recovery or, once they’ve regained controlled, nose-to-nose breath, to find a moderate effort for the last minute – whichever best aligns with what they need to prepare for the next challenge (refuel). If I’m doing a HIIT sequence, however, I use the word recover and encourage them to take it.  The main takeaway here is that the work-to-rest ratios are smart guidelines that can be coached in a variety of ways.  Don’t be afraid to use them!

Myth #4 – I have to control the recovery.

Remember that recovery is your rider’s time to respect what their bodies need. Don’t over orchestrate it. If you relax, it helps your riders relax. It lets them know that you’re serious about the need to recover and refuel. I give reminders on why it’s so important to not just push, push, push for the entire ride, or perhaps take that time to share a quick story or demonstrate an upcoming sequence, but mostly I stay quiet. “Catch your breath, hydrate and let your breath come back to you” is about the extent of what I say. Be comfortable with silence – it’s often more powerful than words!




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