Part of the puzzle that is endurance cycling is how to improve recovery. Whether during a multi-day event or during your training week, how well you recover will dictate how well you do. Learn to maximize your recovery as see a big improvement in your performance.
The following tips will help you speed up recovery. Remember you don’t get fitter and faster during training, your gains come when you recover from training.
Hit the Glycogen Window
Immediately after training or racing down a recovery drink containing carbohydrates and protein. This can be a pre-package recovery drink powder which is convenient as it only has to be mixed with water. Products like Hammer Nutrition Recoverite or Endurox can be found at many cycling and running shops. The other choice that has been shown to equally effective in clinical studies is chocolate milk. If you have a way to keep it cold and you aren’t lactose intolerant, then this is an effective and inexpensive recovery drink. The key is to get carbs and protein in the system within 60 minutes of finishing exhaustive exercise. A good starting point is to consume 80 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein within the hour after your cycling event or workout.
Don’t worry about recovery drinks for you short workouts but the long rides and races deplete muscle glycogen so this will speed up recovery. An hour or two after you can resume eating normal meals.
Stretching after exercise helps keep the muscles loose and the light contractions help move blood and waste products the help the body recovery. Yoga is a great form of stretching as the movement patterns helps the body stay limber and increase blood flow, hence speeding up recovery.
This can be done by a professional or you can use self massage. If you are using self massage, lay on the floor with your legs up on the wall so they are at a 90 degree angle to your body. Knead the muscles you can reach for 15 minutes. Having your legs up helps drain waste products from the legs, so when you sit up, fresh blood full of nutrients flood the legs speeding up the healing process.
Don’t stand when you can sit down, don’t sit when you can lay down. When not training, get off your feet. Take a nap if you can. Make sure to get a good nights sleep each night. One bad night of sleep can mess up your training week as it is hard to make up for lost sleep.
Hot Bathes/Dry Sauna
A good soak in a hot bath or 15-20 minutes in a dry sauna has been shown to increase blood flow and increase recovery. Stretching in the sauna is a good use of time as the muscles respond well in the heat.
Recovery rides are important both after an event and on rest days. When you are done an event, stay on the bike spinning very lightly for 20 minutes to flush out the legs. You don’t want to stop and have the waste products produced during the ride just pool in the legs. On days after hard rides or races, 20-40 minutes of super easy spinning will let you recover quicker than complete rest. The increased blood flow to the legs helps get important nutrients to the muscles and flush out waste products without being so hard as to need recovery.
Pay as much attention to recovery as you to your workouts. You won’t get any stronger if you don’t recover from your workouts and races. Keep your ego in check and make your easy days easy. You will find developing a recovery plan that you follow consistently will speed up your progress.