Recovery is a term used in exercise parlance to describe the process of taking a break from training to allow the body to rebuild tissues torn down during exercise. From Wikipedia:
Proper rest and recovery are as important to health as exercise; otherwise the body exists in a permanently injured state and will not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise. Hence, it is important to remember to allow adequate recovery between exercise sessions. It is necessary to refill the glycogen stores in the skeletal muscles and liver.
As transportational bicyclists, it’s easy to forget that we’re also exercising, sometimes to fairly high levels, over long periods, and with little to no recovery time. Back in the summer of 2008, I made the mistake of riding nearly every day for 4 months straight, the result of which was a bad case of tendonitis in my left knee and a 3-month stint off the bike to nurse the injury. The knee eventually healed, but more importantly, I learned a lesson: when those little aches and pains from riding everyday start up, it’s important to take a rest break to let the body heal before they turn into something major.
For various reasons, all unrelated to recovery, I was off the bike most of this week. Prior to this unplanned break, I had been riding nearly every day for a fairly long stretch. Yesterday, after being off the bike for the fourth day in a row, I noticed something; I was suddenly pain free. Pretty much all of my little aches and sore spots were gone. Prior to this epiphany, I wasn’t consciously aware of being in pain, but in retrospect, I was experiencing chronic, low grade soreness and discomfort resulting from riding many days in a row without a sustained break. How quickly we forget those hard-earned lessons!
Somehow I feel as if I dodged a bullet here. My aches, pains, and general fatigue could have very easily turned into a more serious injury if not for this week’s serendipitous break. The lesson re-learned is that our bodies don’t know the difference between riding a bike for training or riding a bike for transportation. Either way, we need to occasionally take a break to heal up and fully recharge our batteries.