On Monday, I had one of those days on the bike that I'd rather forget.
It was always planned to be an 'easy' day, so I cruised into work for my commute. My legs lacked any snap and I felt a bit lethargic, but I hoped that the easy ride in might shake out the legs a little. Usually, when this happens my ride home is much better.
The afternoon came, and finally it was time to bike home. Well, things didn't improve - I felt really awkward and uncomfortable on the bike for the whole hour-long ride, and my legs just had nothing to really give.
I arrived home, and trudged up the stairs to see my wife & kids. "That was a pretty crap ride..." I groaned to anyone who'd listen. "You're not overdoing it are you?" replied my wife as she was prepping dinner.
Now, even though it was more of an absent-minded comment, my dear wife was 100% correct (as usual - ha!). :)
I've mentioned before that in the previous two-weeks I had restarted doing two-to-three hard interval sessions each week. They are great for crystallising some form in the legs, but they are also pretty draining as well.
This can be a real trap for lower-grade cyclists (who are only used to a moderate training load) and to cyclists who are hitting middle-age. And I cover both of those categories!! Jackpot!!
The tendency, especially for males, is to tell yourself to drink a big hot mug of cement and HTFU - in other words, suck it up and train through it. But if you are in one (or both) of those categories above like I am, its probably the worst thing you can do.
Your body is actually sending you that message, and there's a reason for it. You might have reached a limit and you need some more recovery, or maybe you have a low-grade virus that has taken the edge off your normal performance level. It could be a few things really - but the important point is what you should do about it, and that's to take a brief break.
Rather than risk injury, worsening a mild illness, or going into more serious over-training symptoms - just have a few days off the bike. It will only have a marginal effect (if any) on your form, and will in fact save you from having much longer off the bike if you make things worse (which will have a major effect on your form!).
So what did I do?
I took a couple of days off, leaving the bike in the garage on Tuesday and Wednesday, and catching the bus instead.
On Thursday, I jumped back on the bike for an easy commute into work - and my legs felt terrific. I did my usual hard intervals on Thursday afternoon's homeward commute, and I felt strong and powerful. I even set a couple of Strava PR's on two segments.
So all I'm saying here is that listening to your body is a very important part of developing long-term fitness and enjoying 'cycling longevity'. Play the long game - a couple of days off to refresh the body when it tells you it needs it is good practice. Ignoring it, and developing long-term injuries or illness, is silly and counter-productive.