Most athletes understand the necessity of rest and recovery. From the weight room, to the track, to the velodrome, it is impossible to get stronger and faster without rest. To put it simply, training makes you weaker as an athlete. It’s the rest that makes you stronger.

3 Types of Rest

It’s helpful for me to think of rest in three different contexts:

  1. “Micro-rest”—Rest between hard efforts on the bike
  2. “Mini-rest”—A day of rest after a hard workout or demanding race
  3. “Macro-rest”—Several days or weeks of rest after a block of training or racing

In each of the above mentioned examples a power meter can help guide your decision about when and how long to rest, giving you the greatest chance to progressively get stronger and faster. Here are a few examples of how you might use your power meter to better manage your rest and recovery.

1. Micro

This is the rest duration in between efforts during a workout. The intensity of your effort often shapes the duration of your rest period. If you are unable to sustain your target intensity for a specific interval, your power meter is likely telling you that you either need to reexamine your training zones or you need more rest. Rather than complete a mediocre workout below your targeted intensity, you’re better off shifting your focus for the day into active rest with the aim of coming back at full steam the next day.

2. Mini

Let’s say it’s Monday and you’ve just finished a particularly demanding workout where you nailed all of your intensity targets for the ride. On Tuesday, your plan calls for a rest day in order to consolidate the hard work you just put in, as well as prepare you for another tough workout on Wednesday. Rather than rest, you decide to hit up the local Tuesday night world championships. Wednesday rolls around and you find that you can’t hold your targets for the workout. You attempt to gut it out anyways and end up finishing the workout hitting substantially lower power targets than you had originally planned. Instead of getting two high quality training days you’ve gotten one day of quality, and two days of mediocrity. Your power meter is telling you that you can’t cheat the system. If you want to train with quality you have to rest.

3. Macro

You head out for a structured workout and can tell immediately that you’re not feeling it. Your RPE is off the charts for a power target you can usually nail. Rather than execute a mediocre workout, you opt instead to get some active recovery with the intent of hitting it hard the following day. The next day rolls around and you head out for your workout, noticing again that you’re unable to hit your targets. It has now been two days in a row that you’ve had a hard time completing your workout as prescribed. This is where you might need to take a step back and grab a few days, perhaps even a week of rest. If you’re finding it difficult either physically or mentally to execute consecutive workouts, your power meter might be telling you that you need some sustained time off the bike to rest and recharge.

So there you have it…not only does training with a power meter give you the advantage of quantifying the intensity of your effort on the bike, it also helps you pinpoint when and how you need to rest.

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Nate Dunn, M.S.
Data Driven Athlete