It’s Tapering Time: Biking Less Means Health Gains

Tapering means resting and recovering by biking less often, less distance, or less intensity. Usually the term is reserved for people are resting up before a big race, and if you’re a purist well, thanks for stopping by to point this out. As Kate McKinnon as Dr. Weknowdis said recently on Saturday Night Live, “We know dis.” I’m claiming the word because I’ve been riding my bike every damn day since October 11, 2019. (Only one of those rides to date was indoors on a trainer, during the pandemic by the way, to which fortunately I have not as yet succumbed.) If you want to read an article with technical information, this is not it. But if you do want something a bit more science-y, go look at Bike Radar for one that is. Anyway, I’m tired. While I’ll never truly get tired of riding a bicycle, there is a time to taper. Call it reducing, resting or whatever you want, but as 2020 ends, that time for me is now. Maybe you too?

Menos millas means fewer miles. Copyright Strava

A younger, fitter, faster or perhaps just a normal dude who was getting tired would take a day or week or more off. But discipline, dedication, sports psychology and so on have kept me going. Plenty of days I did not feel like it. Sometimes (though not often) I’d break it up into two rides. Many times I would require a nap and a meal before venturing out, or upon finishing. Some rides were 30, 40 and even 50 miles, when I was feeling good. Through it all, I knew that I could quit at any time if I had to. No one was making me do this except me. But I didn’t quit. I just kept spinning.

The main reason I haven’t taken a day off in over 14 months is #BikeGoals. But now that the final goal is in sight in just a few short days, I can let my hair down (what’s not gone in the drain) and relax a bit. How much and for how long for me is a question. I’m not getting totally off the bike just yet, which would probably be a good idea, and well deserved after the year I’ve had. If you’re a first-time reader and didn’t see the pinned post, check it out. Riding the equivalent of the equator is no joke at any age, but moreso pour moi, a middle-aged fathlete.

I’ll post 2020 statistics and some insights about them in early January 2021. For now I’ll just say that riding fewer miles, and with less intensity, even if I keep it up daily, is going to be essential for my recovery. Both physical and mental. Granted, I’m not doing the longer rides I have in the past, like the back-to-back centuries I did for the MS150 I described in 202 Miles in 2 Days. By opting for daily riding at some point about a year ago, I knew I was going to be in for, well, a long ride. While two 20-milers is more doable than 40, completing 20 every single day gets old fast. And I’m not fast. (Which I’m fine with, thank you very much.)

Source: Bike Hub

If one half of my secret formula for success is grit, determination, discipline, or as we say in Spanish, ganas (desire), the other half is this: time (aka T.I.T.S., or T.ime I.n T.he S.addle). If you have the time, you can bike a long way. If you do it every day, well, you’ll get there eventually. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Well, I’m the tortoise. Or maybe I am the walrus. Really, I’m just a dude. A Dude Abikes, that is. Remember the immortal words of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension:

No matter where you go, there you are.

-Peter Weller as Buckaroo

For 2021, I am considering making my #BikeGoals based on time. I walk, do yoga, and write, each for 30 minutes a day (well, writing often takes longer), so why not bike that much (or little)? Especially if I throw Sophie the Fairdale Weekender Archer on the home trainer, I can go farther in less time. (No streetlights, hills or other obstacles to slow you down.) My bike year of 2020 could be summarized by a lyric from “The Distance,” a great 90’s song by Cake: “…he’s going for distance, he’s (not) going for speed.” I am hoping that 2021 will be measured by “quality, not quantity.” Biking, especially at my slow rate, just takes a lot of time I could use on other goals.

So if you’re at a similar point to me in your biking, running, swimming, or whatever activity where you are feeling a bit bummed out, lackadaisical, unmotivated, or like you “just can’t even,” those are all signs that you need a break. In terms of sports psychology, ya burnt (out). You don’t have to quit your activity completely, but you may want to taper. Cut down the intensity, time or frequency, and do what feels good. Try something else — yoga, read a book, sleep more, take up needlepoint. After a while of less effort, listen to your body, because it will tell you what to do. The time is different for everyone depending on what you’ve been doing, and for how long. When you do come back, you’ll be fresher, stronger and maybe a bit wiser, too. Live to bike another day.


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