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I'm about a month into using my bicycle to commute to work, and one thing I've definitely gotten better at is pacing myself to conserve energy, both for the rest of the commute to work, and for the commute back.

What I'm still unsure of, however, is whether or not I should pace myself on one day to conserve energy for the next. Assuming I ate the same thing, and got the same amount of sleep each day, would I have relatively the same amount of energy each of those days despite a decent back and forth commute?

Today was the first day of my commuting week, and I had a lot more energy (granted, I have been drinking chocolate milk per the advice of bicycles.SE, which may be having a physical or psychological affect AND that my body should be adjusting to the increased activity), so I ended up biking a bit faster than I normally do. Am I going to pay for this tomorrow?

edit: the commute is 15 miles.

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This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but you might also try going harder towards the end of the week. I try to vary the intensity of my commute home to keep my body guessing. I'll be tired come Friday night and I usually take Sat and Sun off, but I'm also getting more fit as I go. –  Ken Hiatt Aug 22 '12 at 13:44
    
How long is your commute? –  Gareth Rees Aug 23 '12 at 15:20
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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

All other things being equal and provided the commute is no more than an hour you should be able to recover in full for the next day.

I reckon that with decent food and rest you will always recover in time.

That said if the week is long and tiring and you don't get enough rest you may be slower on the Friday than on the Monday.

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This depends on the baseline fitness. 10 * 1 hour exercise a week from nothing for a life time is too much and will take months to build up to...... –  mattnz Aug 23 '12 at 1:40
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I have been commuting for the last 8 years. On my starting days, I did notice some differences among the first day of the week and last.

But, this happens till your body adjusts to the cycling rhythm. From then you only have to maintain your diet and rest well then, you will be able to recover full on the next day.

Give your body some time to adjust to the routine. Find out the correct diet plan and rest time it needs to recover full, then just maintain that and cycle regularly.

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It depends on what you want to do. If you simply want to ride to work as efficiently as possible, pace yourself every day so that you are more or less equally tired each day; take it a little easier when you are tired, speed up a little when you feel fresher.

If you want to really improve your riding, so that you could, for example, participate in longer recreational rides or so that in six months you could commute faster, you should do a training cycle. Ride hard, push yourself, on alternate days, taking it as easy as you can on the other days (the hard-easy alternation gives you the maximum workout while still allowing recovery; for even faster gains, you should only ride the hard days while resting the easy days, but that wouldn't work well for commuting).

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Also, if the intent is to train for longer rides, then every 3rd day or so should BE a loner ride -- take a "short cut" that goes about 50% farther then normal. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 29 '12 at 2:13
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If I commute every weekday, I start to feel it by the end of the week. This is likely down to my conditioning, but I find I need at least one day off to let my muscles recover and get stronger.

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A theoretical risk here is overtraining but with the exception of a long commute approaching 50k or more each day that you try to race at competitive timetrial speeds I wouldn't worry if I were you.

Especially the first few weeks you will feel tired from time to time as your body adjusts to the extra work, and at the same time your fitness, and hence your speed will greatly improve.

Your energy consumption will also increase of course, so unless you plan to loose a lot of weight you should expect to eat a bit more. What will help you is to eat some good recovery food right after your commute. Bananas, nuts, raisins, dried fruit in general. These foods provide the same energy you get from chocolate milk, but contain less unhealthy refined sugars and saturated fats, and extra vitamins and minerals your body needs to recover from the exertion.

Note that it is very easy to experiment with your body without harm. Try your hardest on a few days and see how you feel, then take it easy for a few days, and if you feel energized and fully recovered you didn't push yourself too far but probably managed to improve your fitness level.

Only when you find that even after two or three days of rest you still feel tired have heavy legs and maybe even trouble sleeping should you start to worry about overtraining. Otherwise, just conserve energy to the level that you can still comfortably do what you want to do the rest of the day/week.

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You'll be fine on a day-to-day basis I reckon. A lot of it depends on how fit you are to begin with, of course, and bear in mind that a month isn't a particularly long time.

I get the train into work and have commutes either side of the train journey.

At the work end, it is only 1-2 miles so I can do this no problem. I do remember when I first started (5 or so years ago) I would have good days and bad days, but now pretty much every day is the same. In addition I started out with an old mtb (and used the gears), whereas now I ride a single speed. And of course these are great indicators of how much fitter you're becoming.

The home end is longer, about 10 miles each way. I only started cycling at this end last summer, when I could do a couple of days on the bounce, then felt I needed to rest the third day. In addition I would make sure I had food and drink, just in case. This summer however (so far I've only done it in the summer due to it being on fast country roads and wanting the light) I'm fitter and cycling 5 days a week is no problem. I do feel less inclined to go out at weekends, however, but doing 100+ miles each week in any case I'm not going to beat myself up... And I don't bother with either food or drink either, over this kind of distance (takes about a half hour) I don't find it necessary.

In short, listen to your body, remember the good its doing you but take it easy when you feel you need to. You'll get better over time in any case. You're bound to feel fresher after a few days off, but by the same token you won't have zero energy by the time Friday comes around.

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I commute about 2x50 minutes per day and definitely get slower toward the end of the week - not much, but anyway. It's easy to notice by just skipping one day: the day after that will be around 1 km/h faster.

I'm fairly sure it happens to everybody. Adjusting to the routine will make the difference smaller, but it is there. That's why even (or particularly?) the best athletes will rest for a few days before a competition.

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