Last week I mentioned how hard it is for me to properly execute the recovery rides that I am assigned by my coach. You can read about my thoughts here. I asked my coach, Jim Cunningham, with the Greenville Cycling Center to explain his approach to these efforts.
Pedaling a ‘high’ cadence (i.e. 90-100 rpms) increases HR, ventilation, dilation, etc. more-so than low/lower cadence. I often refer to this as ‘speeding up time’ as an athlete will recover more quickly (there are times when complete rest is called for) with this greater blood flow.
Think of it this way – one can circulate his/her blood:
1000 times in 1 hour lying on couch OR
3000 times in 1 hour riding easy.
Further, torque is lower at higher cadence thus putting greater emphasis on the lungs/heart and less on the working muscles. More, power can be low in the recovery ride (in your case, sub-180) as leg speed on it’s own causes some of the physiological response (note, spin-ups in very easy gear will often push HR in zones 3 & even 4).
Had you pedaled at an average of say 85 rpm’s would you still have a ‘recovery ride’? I suspect so but not as much of one.
Jim said he was going to ask some of his coaching friends for their takes on the question. I can see what he is saying. The only thing that was throwing me was that the Quadrant Analysis seemed to indicate that this was not a recovery style ride.
The bottom line is found in the answer to the question Jim asked me at the conclusion of his explanation, “Do you feel your recovery ride was easy and refreshed you?” I have to answer yes to that. Even though I felt as though I was working during the ride, afterward I felt very relaxed, loose, and refreshed.