Tuesday 20 March 2018

My broken bike helped to heal my broken body

Pedal the Planet

Breaking point: Breifne feels super-charged after taking a break from the bike.
Breaking point: Breifne feels super-charged after taking a break from the bike.

Breifne Earley

Regardless of what sport or event you are preparing for, rest is one of the most vital aspects of any training programme. Muscle inflammation is what causes the ache after a training session.

This inflammation is a vital part of the cycle which increases fitness and strength levels. Adequate rest after exercise allows inflammation to do what it is intended to do, namely to speed up the recovery process and increase the resilience of the muscle. Don't get me wrong, lazing in bed or on the sofa isn't going to get you ready for that triathlon or 10km that's looming in a few weeks.

Rest can take a number of forms, from some active recovery sessions which might include yoga, pilates, massage or a gentle stroll or swim. This can allow the muscles you've been focusing on to recover while you remain somewhat active.

After last week's crash a combination of the pretty extensive damage to my bike, lack of spare parts and a pretty dismal postage service here in Thailand would ensure I was not going anywhere for a few days. I decided to take advantage of the enforced break from the saddle to allow my body to take stock of the work that I'd done so far since leaving Ireland, four months and almost 8,000km ago.

As the crash happened 20 minutes from Chumphon, the ferry port to Koh Tao, I took it as a sign to sample the delights of island life for myself. On returning to Chumphon I had my first real experience with the nature of Thailand and its people as the bike shop owner indicated he hadn't even ordered the part as it was too expensive. I almost blew a gasket, knowing that it meant a wait.

Eventually getting back on the road again after four days I managed to make good progress on the bike.

Due mainly to injury and mechanical issues I've been forced to take a few short breaks on this trip, in Munich, Serbia, Turkey and India before this stoppage in Chumphon. I've also chosen to have a few days rest in Goa and Bangalore.

Each time I've gotten back on the bike after these breaks, I've felt like I'm super charged. My pace is quicker, I feel stronger and I'm finding it easier to cover the same distance every day. While this assessment is in part subjective, the data from my ride recorder backs it up; the first few days after a rest are a fraction quicker than before the break, tailing off again slightly as the days, and the fatigue, mount.

Take a recent day and compare it to Belgium. Thailand was over 20 degrees hotter than the Belgian spring with road surfaces more or less comparable and climbs virtually non-existent on either day.

My average speed for today was 24.9kmph; in Belgium it was 20.4kmph. A similar day through Austria (107.2km) to the day in Thailand (106.7km) took almost half an hour longer to complete in Europe, even at 20 degrees cooler.

My average speed is now sitting around the 25km mark compared to a slower 18km when I started the race a few months ago – thanks to a few days off the bike at intervals.

So when you plan your next training programme, make sure that you are getting enough time for your body to heal itself between sessions. With the right mixture or effort and rest you will see amazing results.


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