Embrace the Recovery

As Jack Kornfield writes, “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”  I feel many of us (yes including me) have this sense of post-event depression right now.  We built ourselves up towards our summertime goals and now we are in a state of depletion (mentally and physically).  And I feel it is stronger this year than in previous years.   With COVID and many event cancellations in 2020, we used that time to build up fitness and strengthen weaknesses. That build continued through early 2021 until we finally reached our peak performances this past summer.  That’s a lot of building!


We have completed our big goals, and some of us may have some other goals this fall, but in general our 2021 cycling season has finished.

There are many strategies on how to finish off a year, and it can be very individual.  For most, I would say we are at or very near a time of Recovery.  Like a recovery day and a recovery week, there is such a thing as a recovery month.  There is even such a thing as a recovery year!  

Before we go further, let me tell you a bit about Recovery.  Recovery is a critical phase of the Flow state as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  All four states are described as Struggle, Release, Flow, and Recovery.  You must enter each state to enter that much desired flow state.

Now imagine these phases as not only happening at a race, during training or even when you are doing the dishes, but happening on a bigger level like a cycling year or a build up to a goal event.  For instance a MTB XC racer starts their year typically with some preseason events in March and finishes their season in late September or October.  Another example would be a Leadville athlete that can begin training in November and finish the event the second weekend of August. For the Leadville athlete, they could enter the phase of Struggle during January and then not enter the Release phase till May or June.  Flow would happen in July and August. So you must enter the Recovery phase if you are to continue and enter this Flow cycle again.

Going back to where we are now, Recovery, it must be a priority.  Remember that you cannot start the Flow cycle again till you recover, or you will find yourself falling into a state of burnout and fatigue.  This Recovery phase can be difficult for athletes especially in our “more is better” society. 

This is the time to give yourself some TLC.  You need to slow down to speed back up.  Your fitness will not disappear, and you will be faster when you come back.  In fact, I’ve had many athletes experience huge increases in fitness and mental fortitude after a period of Recovery.  So take advantage of this time to R  E  L  A  X.

What can you do to Relax and recover?  Sleep is the number one recovery tool you have by far.  It’s also FREE.  I also suggest you do some of the things you may have missed while training and working into your Flow state.  You could take an afternoon walk, take a yoga class, do some unstructured rides, continue to eat well and hydrate, or just simply unplug and do nothing. Recovery is a time to flow with what comes and not force yourself to swim against the current.  

So I invite you to speak with your coach and come up with a recovery plan.  Unplug and embrace this time of rest by playing the long game.  Your goals are now months away, and now is the perfect time to prepare mentally and physically for the Tenacity you will need then.