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A winter training week focused on recovery with Haley Smith

Norco Factory Team pro talks about the importance of rest after a hard early season racing block


In this recurring series, Canadian Cycling Magazine will take a look at the Monday to Sunday training programs of some of Canada’s top professional cyclists. From the hours on the bike to the other activities and training that gets incorporated into their plans, we will get a glimpse on how Canada’s top cyclists prepare for some of the worlds biggest races. Here is what a post-race recovery week looks like for Haley Smith looks like.

Haley Smith 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Haley Smith at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Image: Rob Jones

After several years of steady upward progress, Haley Smith had a stellar 2018. The Uxbridge, Ont. racer’s season started with a Commonwealth Games medal before adding her first ever top-10 World Cup result at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Then, at UCI mountain bike world championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland., Smith finished an incredible sixth. The Norco Factory Team pro is off to a speedy start already in 2019, winning eight of nine race days at the Salamina Epic series in Greece. After a hard block of training and racing, Smith gave us the inside scoop on how she balances proper recovery and international travel.

Recovery is key

“Resting is possibly the most overlooked part of training for endurance athletes, but is also potentially the most important,” says Smith. “Your efforts on the bike only benefit you if you rest and absorb; otherwise, you are simply doing work for work’s sake.”

Recovery is more than just taking it easy. Smith has to balance the travel schedule of an international event calendar with her training load and racing. “No two rest weeks look the same for me,” explains Smith. “Rather, they are structured to counterbalance the demands of the previous training block.” Her most recent rest week followed an intense three week period of training, culminating in the Salamina Epic series: a stretch nine races in just 11 days.

Haley Smith had her best World Cup finish at Mont-Sainte-Anne, cracking the top 10 with an eighth place. Image: Matt Stetson

Training program for a recovery week February/March for Haley Smith

Smith: First, I’ll set the stage. In the previous three weeks, I had accumulated 58 hours of training and 3451 Training Stress Score (TSS). With a little math, these stats show you that this training block was, while not particularly high volume, completed at a very high intensity (thanks to the two weeks of stage racing I did over in Europe). With this in mind, I knew that I needed to optimize my period of rest and really take advantage of it. So, the following breakdown is what my ensuing rest week looked like:


– Morning meditation (check out the Headspace app!)
– Easy spin: 90 min in zone 1, or even below at times. Mandatory cafe stop!
– Evening stretching session with foam rolling
– 5 km of very relaxed walking around Athens (I’m always trying to balance ideal training with “life” – I wasn’t going to miss out on being a tourist in one of the oldest cities I’d ever been to!)


– Long travel day: Athens, Greece to Squamish, B.C.. Travelling this distance (and 10 time zones) during a rest week wasn’t optimal, but more often than not, we have to find a way to integrate travel into our training routines.
– I broke up the travel day with a few short stretching sessions (I’m quite comfortable with the funny looks I get in the airport at this point), a meditation, and a diligent (but also relaxed) attention to hydration and nutrition.


– Morning meditation
– 1 hr Hatha flow yoga class in the morning
– 1 hr afternoon road ride, mostly zone 1
– Stretching and foam rolling in the evening

Haley smith at 2018 Canadian XCO national championships in Canmore, Alta.


– Morning meditation
– 75 min morning MTB ride, zone 1 and 2.
– Nap!
– Stretching and foam rolling in the evening


– Morning core/stability/preventative maintenance workout
– 90 min zone 1 and 2 road ride


– Morning meditation
– 75 min MTB ride in the morning
– 1 hr flow yoga in the afternoon


– Morning swim
– Meditation
– 5 km hike in the morning
– 75 min MTB ride in the afternoon
– Stretching and foam rolling in the evening.

Haley Smith Norco Revolver HT
Haley Smith racing the 2018 Bear Mountain Canada Cup

Smith: There you have it! Recovery doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to include all sorts of high tech interventions. In fact, my recovery weeks often look a little monotonous on paper. The key for me is to go by feel – do what I’m motivated to do, with a mind to replenish not just my physical energy stores, but also my emotional and mental ones. Most of my recovery is self-promoted, meaning I tend to avoid massage treatments and the like in the training season. A couple other key takeaways from my latest recovery week would be the importance of variety (even small variations, like changing up the time of day I train at), limiting social media and screen time, and cultivating a real trust in the process. Resting isn’t always the easiest mentally, but I can guarantee that the outcome is worth it!

Haley Smith is currently preparing for the start of the early season North American cross country races before World Cup racing returns on May 18 in Albstadt, Germany. The cross country season will conclude back on home turf when 2019 UCI mountain bike world championships returning to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que, for a record third time.

More Canadian Winter Training Plans:

A big week of off-season training with Michael Woods
A week of winter training in Montreal with James Piccoli
A week of winter base training with Leah Kirchmann
A week of winter training in Canada with Catharine Pendrel
A week of winter training with Sara Poidevin
Student pro vs. full time racer: Two weeks of winter training with Peter Disera