Recovery is as important as training

As you ramp up the miles in preparation for the event it is as important to be aware of the benefits of good recovery as much as munching the miles.

Post Ride Recovery Routine? Listen to your body

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Do you pay attention to how you recover after a bike ride?  Do you have a set routine where you know what you’re doing from the moment you get off the bike? As you start to get longer spins in as preparation for all the sportives you are planning remember to listen to your body

As a beginner, it’s easy to think that training ends as soon as the bike ride ends. For you this might be the case, but it is not the case for your body.  In fact, your body has to work hard ‘off the bike’ over the next 24 hours plus to: repair muscle and restore carb stores etc., –  just to get you fitter for that next bike ride!

So, it makes sense in that case to learn to ‘self monitor’ how your body recovers and optimise this as best you can through following a post ride recovery routine. What’s important is you don’t leave the routine to chance.  Think right now about what you do to recover, or ‘could do better’ to help your recovery.  Become conscious of the steps of the routine.  Then, practice different routines until you find the one that makes you feel the most rested and refreshed before your next cycle ride…and then stick to it!

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Here are some tips that will accelerate your recovery.

  1. Cool down properly! Recovery starts at the end of every bike ride.  Slow down and make sure you are in an easy gear.  Let your legs spin over for the last 2 miles home.  Do this after every cycle ride be it a hard club run, a 100 KM sportive, or an easy training ride.
  1. Stretch after every bike ride!Do some light stretching as soon as you get off the bike.  This is arguably the best time to stretch because the muscles are warm and responsive, rather than before a bike ride when they are cold and prone to injury.  Stretch your back, arms, legs and calves and it takes no longer than 5 minutes.
  1. Eat a snack rich in carbs and a little protein! It’s important to eat as soon as you get home.  Eat before getting changed because it is necessary to get food inside you.  You want to optimise restoring carbs as soon as you can.  Research shows that a large percentage of carb replacement can happen within 15 mins of getting in from a bike ride.  Eat simple food: cereal and banana, or bagel with peanut butter, or a tuna sandwich. No more than a snack, but enough to fill a hunger gap.
  1. Get a shower or bath!It’s important now to not get too cold!  So getting a hot shower or bath is important.  Warm water is soothing on tired legs
  1. Keep your feet up! After a long bike ride try and keep my feet up as much as you can.  This gives those tired muscles time to repair. However, if you are feeling a little leg stiffness mid afternoon, a gentle 20 minute walk can help wonders too.  The fresh air again oxygenates your system.
  1. Hydrate!Monitor your hydration status throughout the day, night and morning until I get out cycling again.  Drink plenty water and remember to drink about 1 pint before you get up in the morning.  Hydration is KEY to speed of recovery.
  1. Eat a nourishing evening meal! Give your body what it needs and it will reward you in faster recovery, better fitness and overall good health.  Before you pile on the pasta, think about what would be more nourishing. Unless you are racing or doing a sportive the next day, don’t opt for pasta! Options to think about would be boiled potatoes, lean fish or beef/chicken casserole and make a massive salad.  Finish off with fruit or a yogurt, but rarely ice-cream.
  1. Get to bed in good time! How well you sleep has huge repercussions on how well you recover!   If you’ve done a hard training your body is most likely crying out for a good night’s sleep.  Sleep well and your recovery will be greatly enhanced. Do note that one night with ‘lack of sleep,’ say before an important race or sportive, usually doesn’t affect your cycle performance.  What’s important is you get a good nights sleep in the days leading up to an event and then the night before doesn’t matter too much.
  1. Hydrate first thing in the morning! Make sure you drink a good pint of water before getting up.  It will make the world of difference to ‘how you feel’ by mid morning.  Much of morning sluggishness can be attributed to dehydration.  Have a pint of water by the bed and that way you are reminded to drink it before you get up!
  1. Eat your breakfast! Make sure you have a king sized breakfast, e.g. oats and a boiled egg washed down with a glass of fresh orange juice makes an excellent start to the day, whether it’s a recovery day or a day in the saddle.

And before you cycle again, remember to ASK yourself how you’re feeling: are you still too heavy legged, or are you rearing to get out cycling?  Then, ask yourself one more time how you feel when cycling your first few miles?  If not up for the ride, be honest about it – head home and ‘leave it out’ until another day. The best motto for cycling training is to: listen to your body!