I recently ran a 7.5 hour race with some friends. OK, so I didn’t so much run as hike. The course was at a mountain ski resort, and took us up and down some pretty steep ski runs. I’m in decent shape, and the hike itself wasn’t super challenging. The duration was what almost did me in. My body is not used to moving constantly for that length of time. I was definitely feeling it the next day. And the next. And, I’m ashamed to say, the next. Three days later, and I finally feel close to normal.
This experience got me thinking about some of my past tours. Tour number one was really rough. We had anticipated being able to cover many more miles in the first days than we were actually able to. However, since we were unprepared, and our bodies weren’t used to that much physical stress, we found ourselves needing breaks. We took twice or even three times as many days off as we planned, which put us way behind schedule. Since we had a hard deadline to finish, the last fourteen days of the tour came with zero breaks. Fourteen straight days of riding almost did me in. After, I felt very similar to the 7.5 hour hike, and spent several days recovering. To me, it’s not fun to have difficulty walking first thing in the morning. And I’m sure it’s not really good for your muscles and connective tissue, either.
Bottom line is, your body needs rest. You build your most strength during rest days. That’s not to say you should sit around on your butt on your day off. Nope! Go on a hike, walk around, explore. Even take a short, unloaded ride. Plan the next few days of riding. Get plenty of sleep. Make sure you’re ready to get back on the bike and give it your best effort.
Everyone is different, and every tour is different. On our most recent tour, we typically rode 6 days and rested one. That seemed to work pretty well. I’m sure other people can ride more days (or less) before needing a break. Do what works for you. Just don’t plan your trip, anticipating 70-100 mile days with no rest days factored in. You’ll make it very difficult to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. What kind of riding schedule do you like to keep? Let us know in the comments below!