Rest day blues

I really wish I could just keep riding my bike forever, but sooner or later my body starts to complain, and I notice I’m getting slower and more out of breath, and the miles seem longer, and the hills steeper, and the headwinds stronger, and I realize I’m due a rest day.

And I was seriously overdue one when I pulled into Sofia the other day, and realized that I’d ridden through two whole countries since my last shower, and four since I last had a day off. So the following morning I ate several breakfasts, put my head down, and pushed myself hard through the last 100 miles to Plovdiv, where I had the promise of a dry bed and a warm flat for a few days.

But you know what? I actually hate rest days. I look forward to them, thinking how delicious it’ll be just to sit around doing nothing but eating and drinking, but when it comes down to it I just spend the whole time feeling ill and exhausted – more so than I ever do on the bike.

And yes yes, I know this is all part of the process, and that for some biological reason I can’t (be bothered to) get my head round, my body needs to spend 24 hours feeling sluggish, weak and run-down in order to recharge its batteries. I understand that I have to endure this doldrum in order to enjoy the days of power and glory that always follow.

What I don’t get is the insomnia. Why, when I’ve been on the bike for nearly two weeks, crossed some of the most mountainous countries in Europe, slept rough for the past few nights and ridden an imperial century as fast as I possibly could (racing the sunset to Plovdiv) do I then lie awake until 2am, yawning, fidgeting and fretting, desperately bored with my own thoughts and company and persistent consciousness, and unable to get to sleep?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. Will someone who knows please tell me why?

It’s happened before, usually after a day where I’ve ridden a long distance under difficult circumstances, fallen into the clean and comfortable bed I’ve been dreaming of all day, and expected to go out like a light. In the past I’ve blamed caffeinated energy products, but all I ate yesterday was a cheese sandwich and a Swiss roll.

Is it because I’m over-tired? What does ‘over-tired’ even mean?

Whatever the cause, five hours of interrupted sleep last night made today’s recuperation even more tiresome and unproductive than usual. So the long and exuberant report on how wonderful the past two weeks have been will just have to wait till tomorrow, I’m afraid.

Leave a Comment


  1. Posted November 6, 2011 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    “Why, when I’ve been on the bike for nearly two weeks…”

    Does that mean that you’re on the bike for two weeks at a time without a rest day? Perhaps there are some people out there who can do that and who don’t feel the effects of exhaustion. But for me, when I got truly exhausted when skateboarding across China, I was not able to sleep ( I’m not sure of the physiological reasons behind it, but I can imagine it must have something to do with the fact that your body gets pushed to its limits, and has all sorts of crazy chemicals coursing through the body to keep you going, and perhaps they get all out of kilter. They can’t turn off when they’re supposed to.

    In any case, it sounds to me like a classic case of exhaustion – of being over-tired.

    Sometimes you have to just force yourself to take regular rest days. Forced rest. It does wonders (even though your mind will protest – but don’t listen; you’re allowed to rest!).

    Drink before you’re thirsty, eat before you’re hungry, and, most important of all, rest before you’re exhausted.

    My two cents.

  2. Posted November 6, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Oh and thanks for all the great updates. I really love getting them in my Google Reader inbox!


  3. Daniel
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I don’t have any scientific evidence either so sorry for posting anyway. But I do know I often suffer from the same thing, after a hard training session, camp or trek. You look forward to and long for that sweet coma, but nothing. So I concur with the previous comment, probably all the hormones.
    Thank’s for a great blog. Now, rest.

  4. Grace
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s overtraining -Rob’s right and I second another thumbs up for his comment

    It sounds like you’re body’s running on endorphins and adrenaline when you reach exhaustion and then when you have the chance to rest, it’s still working overtime hence the inability to sleep.

    Rest more, eat more and drink more – hard as it is, try not to let yourself get too run down and done in – you’ve got plenty of time to do this – you are your own clock so no rush right?

  5. Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks chaps! So is this the perfect excuse to be (even) lazier and greedier?

    Oh go on then…

  6. tika
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I agree with all the comments above. Whenever I do a hard ride or set of intevals I can’t sleep either. i have never rode loads as you are doing but when I train for the track I feel this. i normally have a rest day a week and alternate between hard days and easier days.
    I am almost catching up!