Getting into a good routine is one thing and maintaining it can mean the difference between continual progress or a gradual plateau followed by decline. There’s no doubt that recovery is just as, if not more, important than training itself since it’s during this time that the body adapts to exercise stress and the real effect of training takes place. So, if you’re thinking a lot about you’re riding then you also need to be thinking about how to recover in the right way too.
There’s no doubt that recovery is just as, if not more, important than training itself since it’s during this time that the body adapts to exercise stress and the real effect of training takes place.
The last moments of your ride, and immediately after, are crucial in helping to facilitate fast recovery and kickstart the process in the right way. Whilst it’s easy to unleash a Manx-Missile like sprint for the last village sign just a few hundred metres from home in doing so you’ll be flooding your muscles with acid and subsequently leading to a significant decline in recovery time.
Use the last 15 to 20 minutes to gently warm down, spinning the legs in an easier gear. If this is more difficult, for example if you live at the top of a hill, then consider a short spin on the turbo or rollers to ensure a proper and controlled warm down, as is the norm for the pro’s as soon as they finish their race.
What you eat and when makes a huge difference to recovery times. Often when you finish a ride feeling fatigued and tired it’s easy to neglect your body for the love of the sofa, the bath or long shower. Whilst it may feel like good recovery remember that the first 20 minutes after exercise are the most effective at replenishing depleted glycogen stores since your blood flow is increased and muscle cells are more sensitive to insulin during this time.
Mix up a recovery drink in advance and chill it in the fridge ready for your return. There are an abundance of specialist products available that have been carefully formulated to put back what you’ve taken out including amino acids, electrolytes and the usual blend of carbohydrates and protein, although you don’t always have to go technical. Try cereal, bagels, fruit, yogurt or a glass of low fat chocolate milk to get the carbs and protein back in.
There are an abundance of specialist products available that have been carefully formulated to put back what you’ve taken out.
It’s better to eat little and often. If you’re riding again the next day then your evening meal should be high in complex carbohydrates (rice, pasta, sweet potatoes) and lean protein such as chicken or fish. A glass of wine may be good for relaxation but try not to go over the top on the alcohol and if possible eat early or you may find it hard to sleep.
Whilst it may seem logical that the best way to recover is to simply not do anything, sometimes being static for hours can leave leave your legs feeling stiff and out of sorts. Stimulating blood flow helps to remove toxins that have built up from training whilst also keeping the muscles supple.
Stimulating blood flow helps to remove toxins that have built up from training whilst also keeping the muscles supple.
Something as simple as a gentle walk after dinner can help and whilst massage plays a daily part of a professional rider’s routine we don’t all have the luxury of a soigneurs hands after every ride, but we do have our own! Try massaging your own calves and quads, gently pushing the blood back towards the heart. A regular stretching routine can be used to relax both the body and mind whilst an electrostimulation device, such as a Compex, is designed to deeply invigorate the muscles and promote faster recovery. Being portable means you can do this practically anywhere and at anytime – at home, in a hotel, in bed or even on the way back from an event in the car – provided you’re the passenger of course!
When it comes to recovery sleep is absolutely crucial and even missing just a few hours here and there can soon lead to a dramatic decrease in performance. It’s when your body really gets a chance to repair and recharge so never overlook its importance. As creatures of habit try and get into a routine. This not only helps ensure that you get enough sleep but will also facilitate consistency in your schedule allowing more efficient adaptation to both your training and nutrition.
Whilst we’re all different it’s commonly quoted that most adults need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Depending on your training this may vary further still, particularly during intense or high volume periods. It’s not just quantity either, quality is the key. Keep the room dark and quiet and make a conscious effort to switch off the television, computer or phone an hour before bed to allow you’re mind the time to start the mental detox from the day. Get to know your body, there’s a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount your body needs to repair, adapt and function optimally.
Low Load and Days Off
It’s all too easy to get into such a routine that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees at times. As is the basic nature of training, progressive loading of the system followed by periods of rest to bring on adaptation, it’s important to ensure that any training program has adequate periods of low-load in order to bring on the desired effect.
It’s common training methodology to factor in a regular recovery week, normally scheduled at the end of a progressive block of training but, remember, it’s not only the body that needs to recover. Staying mentally fresh and alert is just as important for your longterm motivation. Whilst active recovery is beneficial, low-load and volume, to keep yourself ticking over before the next block of training don’t be afraid to take a complete day off either. Sometimes it’s the best, and only, way to regain your eagerness and enthusiasm to ride.
If anyone has any questions or needs further advice then feel free to contact me on Twitter @cottydale.
Train smart and recover well everyone!
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