When I first began riding, it was so much fun that I wanted to ride all the time. Eventually my competitiveness and desire to push my physical boundaries lead me to try my luck at racing. Racing was really fun; the traveling, crowds, dog-eat-dog aggressiveness and the team bonding experiences. I began as a Category 4 (there were no Category 5’s then), and eventually upgraded to a Category 2.
It took a few years to get to the Cat.2 level but through hard work, dedication, and discipline, I was able to upgrade through the senior ranks. I always had a structured training schedule that consisted of interval training and mid-week tempo climbing, I was logging in over 300 miles per week. I made many training mistakes as beginning racers do; riding when ill, riding every day without rest, and not getting a proper bike fit. As I became more knowledgeable about training and diet, I also became aware of “active rest days”. The philosophy was at the time, that after hard training days, you would go out and ride “easy” for a few hours at low intensity. The idea was to keep the legs loose and allowing active recovery from the previous days efforts. It really took a lot of discipline to stick to it, when you are training and racing, it is very hard to hold yourself back from going hard because you want to keep your edge thinking that every day must count (toward training intensity).
After incorporating active rest days into my training regimen, I actually began to look forward to those days. Not only was it a lot easier mentally than high-intensity training, I was able to take in my surroundings; see things that I hadn’t seen before because I was so focused on speed, cadence, and distance. I really believe it kept me from getting burnt out on training and racing and allowed me to ride with people I wouldn’t normally ride with (non-racing friends and family).
After I stopped racing, there was no need for intense training yet I kept on riding a few days a week and doing the weekly and weekend group rides. But, I still maintained my “easy” days. Those easy days became more and more frequent and also shorter and easier! Now when I head out for my easy rides, I call it “turnin’ some corners”. What that means is that I don’t head out with a complete route in mind, I’ll head out and just let my instincts take me where they want me to go. It’s a time for personal reflection, adventure, and sight seeing.
Have you ever wondered where a particular road went but never had the time to explore it or it conflicted with your “training route”? That is where you go when you go “turnin’ some corners”, you just go there and explore it. You see a road that appears to be going up, it has a sign that says “No Through Traffic”, you go check it out…
You take your road bike on dirt paths, MUP’s (Multi-Use Paths), back alleys in downtown areas, through neighborhoods you have never been through. Turnin’ corners is not about speed, it is just about “riding”. It is like jazz, improvisational and free flowing.
I’ll work on my pedaling technique, pedaling with one leg then alternate to the other leg. That works to smooth out my pedal stroke, again, speed is not important. If I go out and do an easy climb (usually less than 1 mi. in length, easy grade), I’ll concentrate on relaxing my upper body and maintain a steady tempo. Fine tune the techniques, when you are going hard, the first thing to suffer is technique…
I stop a lot on my easy rides, might just sit awhile and people watch or maybe mid-way through the ride, I decide that’s it and turn around not knowing which way I am going back. I’ll ride until I decide which turn to take, totally by feel. Turnin’ corners keeps my riding balanced, keeps me mentally fresh, and opens me up to new experiences and meeting new people. I’ve had people say to me..”hey, I saw you riding in such and such area, I didn’t know you ride there?”. That’s right, turning’ some corners man….