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How Rest Improves Your Speed & Endurance

Coach Robb


Exercise is a great habit to have within your daily life; however, when it becomes an obsession it can actually become counter-productive to your overall health.  Excessive training (in the form of volume and/or intensity) without adequate rest causes the body to become "numb" to external indicators of over training such as mood swings, simple sugar cravings, interrupted sleep, loss of sex drive, loss of body weight, suppressed appetite and an elevated resting heart rate.

Research indicates that after 12 weeks of consistent training, Cytochome C (a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the production of energy at a cellular level), reaches a peak and then beings to decline. In addition to Cytochrome C levels, so does your maximum oxygen uptake (also known as your VO2 Max.).  At this point, the body must be allowed to rest and re-group for continued progress.

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Give it a rest!

Training creates adaptations within the body's various systems (muscular, cardio-pulmonary, lymphatic, nervous and connective) and needs to be supported with rest and food for positive adaptations.  Inadequate amounts (and quality) of sleep and food set the body up for a physical break down which leads to negative effects on the body (i.e. suppressed immune system and muscles with less power and endurance).

In addition to adaptations within the body's systems, training causes changes at a cellular level - cell mitochondria swell, metabolic wastes accumulate, essential nutrients (particularly electrolytes and stored glycogen) deplete, and muscle tissue is torn.  This tearing is known as microtrauma of the cells, and torn muscle tissue doesn't work efficiently.  As popularly noted, it takes 48 hours for the body to recover from this micro-trauma and has to be supported with rest and food for proper recovery and improved overall health.

If the body doesn't get the opportunity to rebuild from the "work phase" of training, overall health and associated performance begin to slow down (and in extreme circumstances, cease all together).

The concept of hard training days followed with easy-active recovery days incorporated into your weekly training schedule establishes the balance necessary for maximum improvements in your overall health and ultimately your performance.  Consistent training without physical or mental setbacks provides the foundation for your body absorb your training volumes.  The larger the foundation (i.e. quality of overall health) the quicker you will recover from workouts and the quicker your body will progress to new levels of performance.

The key to overcoming your fear of taking time off is to understand how much it will help, rather than hinder, your performance.  Think about it this way, if you are not fresh, you will not have the energy (or desire) to push to the next level of performance.  If your body doesn't experience the next level, you will begin to stagnate within your performance cycles. So, the next time you see a recovery workout on your schedule, don't ignore it! Remember, that rest allows your body to recover, rebuild, and ultimately become stronger.

Have a great holiday weekend and don't forget to tap that "follow" button!

Coach Robb Beams
Human Performance Expert


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Robb, great advice for those like me that have a tendency to "over do" things. ;) I know when I take a few days away from the gym, the first day back, I feel stronger and it shows up in the amount of extra weight I'm able to push/pull while still maintaining control. Good reminder!

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A lot of us older guys figured this out a long time ago, but there are plenty of people that don't understand this concept.  Simple, but very important. ;)

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Excellent info , can you give us some examples of what over training might be and look like ?, as in someone's training and racing schedule that you classify as over training 

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Thanks for reading and your questions - much appreciated!  When it comes to signs of over training there are two ways to look at this subject - on and off of the bike.

Off the bike:

1. Night sweats: if you are sleeping in a dark, cold room and sweating, your adrenal system is getting fried.  "Adrenal Fatigue" is commonly used here.

2. Inability to sleep when you are tired.  If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, you are not getting enough fat and protein (the only two things that satisfy appetite) prior to going to bed and your body will wake you up.  However, if you are doing this and still not  able to get to sleep quickly and stay asleep, you are over-trained.  "Adrenal Fatigue" is commonly used here as well.

3. Low sex drive.  If you workout, specifically with weights and sport specific load levels, your body should be producing the necessary sex hormones.  Note: if you are implementing strength training/sport specific load levels (i.e. interval work on the Concept2 Rower) and overweight, this can negatively affect your sex drive.  

3. Craving simple sugars.  High intensity training is hard on your body (high oxidative stress, production of free radicals, etc.) and can lead to chronic depletion of sugar in your liver and muscles.  Your brain is fed from your liver and your movement is fueled by stored muscle sugar (also know as stored glycogen in your liver and muscles).  In addition to chronic glycogen depletion, high intensity training is stressful to your entire body which stresses your parasympatheic systems - aka, Adrenal System.  If exercise crosses that fine line of stress reducing into "increased stress", the exercise becomes counter productive.  Your body only understands "stress", not where it comes from.  If you push the intensity, starve the body, become dehydrated, don't get enough sleep, etc. - your body deems this as stress.  It doesn't know the difference between athletic, relationship, financial, professional - stress is stress to the body and it only has one system to handle it all.  If the stress becomes too much, your adrenals get over worked.  When they are overworked and not provided high quality MCT (medium chained triglycerides - aka "good fat"), you run into Adrenal Fatigue.

Think about it this way, if you squeeze a dry sponge, you don't get any water.  If you don't "fill" your adrenal system with high quality fats, eventually they become "dry" and they can't do their job.  If you adrenals can't cope with stress, you run into adrenal fatigue symptoms: tired and can't sleep, night sweats, low sex drive and craving of simple sugars.  

On the Bike:

1. Same speed feels "hard".  If you are falling off the pace, and keep throwing more effort into it and you can't get back up to speed, you may have a combination of mental and physical fatigue.  

2. Inability to process high speed.  At a neuromuscular level, if your brain can't process higher speeds, you may also have a mental/physical fatigue issue.  Chronic depleted sugar storage's in your liver and muscles can slow your processing speed resulting in slower speed and/or quick levels of fatigue.  

3. Bike feels "heavy".  If you feel that the bike is 20 pounds heavier, your muscles are excessively fatigued.  This could be one or a combination of things: dehydrated, glycogen depleted, residual soreness or excessively exposed to load (weights, speed work, etc.).

These are just a few things that you would want to pay attention to both on and off of the bike.  I have a resources that I use with all of my clients: Body Analysis (evaluate the stress on the body), Sweat Rate Calculator (avoid chronic dehydration), Heart Rate Spreadsheet (avoid training too hard on easy days, push hard enough on hard days to improve the correct energy systems), Body Measurements (evaluate nutrition and training to ensure the dropping of body fat and development of lean muscle mass and more.  I happy to share this with you (or anyone that is reading this).  Simply let me know which resource(s) you need - send an email to Christy (our client service director) at Contact@CoachRobb.com. 

In my opinion, the key to any performance program is making sure that you are combining nutrition, hydration, cross training and bike specific to create an adaptation progression that is SUSTAINABLE.  My goal is to have my clients improve by 1% every day - whether it is in the area of nutrition, hydration, flexibility, mental development, strength, speed, endurance, etc. there is always that we can improve.  However, it shouldn't be at a rate that is unrealistic.  The reality is that we are humans and progression needs to be systematic, focused and quantifiable evaluated to ensure long term success.  

Thanks again for reading the article and leaving your question - I am always glad to help in any way!

Yours in sport and health,

-Coach Robb



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