Duration, intensity and frequency are the key training ingredients for attaining your best race-day fitness, and with proper recovery, you can increase all three. Since training breaks your body down, recovery is what allows it to adapt, improve and, most important of all, capitalize from the training stimulus. Here are 10 tips that will help enhance your recovery and, in turn, increase your potential for greater overall fitness.
When dealing with hydration, recovery begins before you even climb on the saddle for the ride. How you drink during the ride will greatly influence your recovery time post-workout. On the bike, it’s nearly impossible to take in enough fluids to compensate for what is lost, so drink up. Although it’s dependent on temperature and intensity, a general rule of thumb is 6–10 ounces every 15–20 minutes. Just the loss of 1 percent of your body’s water can cause reduced VO2 max, increased heart rate and decreased alertness. For post-ride hydration, it’s recommended that in the four to six hours after you ride, you should consume 125–150 percent of your estimated fluid losses. But how exactly do you estimate your fluid loss? Easy. Weigh yourself pre- and post-ride (be sure you’re wearing the same clothing); the difference between the two will be your fluid deficit. If you finish your ride 2 kilograms (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds) lighter than you started, you can estimate that you have a fluid deficit of 2 liters. Basically, just remember that each kilogram of weight loss is equal to approximately 1 liter of fluid deficit. Your post-ride hydration plan needs to include some electrolytes in order to restore your body’s balance.
With no shortage of recovery drinks on the market, there’s no excuse not to have one in hand immediately after a ride. And remember, even lowfat chocolate milk does a body good.
2.) RECOVERY DRINK
Getting the necessary nutrients into your body within the first 30 minutes of finishing your exercise is essential to recovery, since it’s during this time when your muscles’ uptake of glycogen is at their fastest rate. Studies have shown that a 4:1 carbohydrate-toprotein ratio will provide both optimal glycogen stores and muscle repair for post-exercise recovery. There are numerous recovery drinks on the market that have this optimum balance of carbs and protein, but an easy-to-find alternative to a marketed recovery drink is lowfat chocolate milk. The milk adds the necessary protein, while the sugar from the chocolate adds the needed carbohydrates; there is even sodium to replenish some lost electrolytes—just be sure it’s not whole milk, which would add too much fat and slow absorption.
For optimal recovery, the importance of high-quality carbohydrates cannot be underestimated. Depending on the intensity of the day’s workout, you should be consuming between 7–12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight each day. This is necessary for optimal replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, the body’s preferred energy source, while exercising at moderate to high intensity. An easy snack that contains 50 grams of carbs is two slices of toast topped with banana and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. Sometimes endurance athletes forget that there is more to nutrition than just carbs. Highquality protein is essential for muscle repair, so 15–25 grams of high-quality protein needs to be consumed in the first hour after exercise as well. Back in my racing days, my favorite post-ride lunch was pasta with chicken and vegetables, which gave me the perfect balance of carbs, protein and fat.
Compression tights (Sugoi Piston 200 for $90 at Sugoi) provide an easy way to boost recovery.
Compression garments are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Wearing a pair of compression tights or knee-high compression socks will help minimize the swelling in your legs by promoting blood flow back up to your heart; this is especially helpful if you’re spending a lot of time on your feet, at a desk or traveling. There are plenty of choices in compression garments on the market today, with most sport clothing brands having their own version. However, getting a tight but not constricting fit is critical, so be sure you try them on before buying.
A post-ride stretch will help loosen tired muscles; but be sure to never stretch before you have warmed up, as this may result in injury.
While you’re sipping your recovery drink and while your muscles are still warm, it’s a good time to stretch. Static stretching can help increase blood flow to the muscles, which speeds recovery. But it also improves range of motion, which is an important part of cycling performance and injury prevention. The key points to keep in mind are as follows: only stretch warmed-up muscles, include all muscle groups involved in your activity (i.e., calves, quads, illiotibial bands, hamstrings, gluteus, neck and shoulders), stretch slowly and gently, and never bounce or hold your breath. Stretching pre-ride cold muscles is not a good idea since the potential for injury is greatly increased, and some studies have shown a reduction in power versus an unstretched muscle.
Okay, this one is a little far-fetched for most people that work a normal 9-to-5. In fact, being able to nap is what I miss most of all from my time as a pro. If you are one of the fortunate few that can get a little shut-eye midday, take advantage of it and the recovery benefits it offers. When sleeping, your body releases growth hormones and testosterone, which aid in muscle repair and weight loss, as well as giving a boost to your immune system. It gives your brain a rest and your body a chance to heal after it’s been broken down from training. A quick 20-minute nap can be refreshing, but it’s after about 45 minutes of sleep when most of the physiological benefits take place.
If you think the workout is the hard part, you obviously have never taken an ice bath—-not the most pleasant method, but it’s effective
7.) ICE BATH
Not all the recovery techniques are quite as nice and relaxing as a massage; some are downright uncomfortable, as is the case with an “ice” bath. Taking a 10-minute bath in 55-60- degree will cause blood vessels to constrict, forcing out blood with waste products, such as lactic acid from the muscles. With ice baths, more is not better. Using colder than recommended water and a longer duration can cause more harm than good. Once out of the bath and re-warmed, the increased blood flow back into the muscles causes improved recovery. Another technique is doing cold-water-to-warmwater intervals. Alternate three times from a hot tub to a cold pool every couple of minutes; this will keep your circulation on overdrive. Save this hotand- cold exercise for the hardest of workouts or multi-day events; it’s not something you want to put yourself through on a daily basis. I remember a few years back, after an especially hard stage of the Mt. Hood stage race, I wasn’t able to do a traditional ice bath, so I found the next best thing: a dip in a creek fed by snowmelt—it did the trick!
One of the perks of being a pro racer is daily massages.
Most professional cyclists would say that one of the best perks of their job is a daily massage. A good massage will cause blood to flush in and out of muscles and joints. This flushing process increases circulation in the massaged areas, resulting in a shortened recovery time. Massages are also critical for injury prevention since tight muscles can be worked out before causing imbalances that could result in injury. But, you don’t need to shell out $60 an hour to a massage therapist to get similar benefits. Products like The Stick and foam rollers give you the ability to do self-massages. These soft-tissue massaging tools help work tired or sore muscles the same way a therapist would—at a fraction of the cost.
As beneficial as a massage can be, they’re not always the most economically feasible. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options that are much less cost-prohibitive. An AXOM foam roller ($20 at www.optp.com) allows you to use your body weight to “roll” your muscles out to get massage-like benefits. A handheld roller (Tiger Tail for $30 at www.tigertailusa.com) does the same thing, but it gives you the ability to reach places the foam roller can’t.
9.) ACTIVE RECOVERY
Sometimes all the recovery techniques are still not enough to get your legs back underneath you. Rather than sitting around for the day after a hard workout, get out on the bike for an active recovery. Low-intensity active recovery boosts blood circulation, which removes lactic acid from your muscles, helping facilitate recovery faster than the sedentary approach. The ride should be on flat terrain, in a light gear, with minimal pressure on the pedals and at a conversational pace.
Getting on the bike for a leisurely spin for 45-60 minutes will increase blood flow and speed up recovery, but remember it has to be easy!
The amount of sleep a person gets affects their physical health, emotional well-being, mental ability, productivity and performance. Keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times; otherwise, it can leave you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Also, researchers have found that people not getting enough sleep are more likely to overeat every day. Not getting enough sleep is also detrimental to your immune system the following day.
HOW THE PROS RECOVER:
Matthew Busche (RadioShack): “I’m simply mindful of my diet, because the food I eat is the fuel my body burns. If I feed my body junk, I will get junk out of it. The most underrated key to recovery is rest. Rest is not only a solid night of sleep; I think taking naps after lunch is key to aid recovery and boosts the body’s performance on and off the bike.”
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo): “For a post-ride recovery food, I like to always have rice or cereal, followed by a protein drink. I’ve been using HoneyMilk for my protein drink, and I’m really happy with it; it’s all natural and easy to digest. I’m also a real big fan of compression tights and use them all the time after training.”
Ben Day (UnitedHealthcare): “For post-ride or race recovery—ice baths. I hate it, but it works awesome. I also think doing hot bath/cold bath intervals are really good too.”
Lucas Euser (SpiderTech powered by C10): “I take an organic approach to recovery—eating right and getting quality sleep. People always look for a product to help with recovery, but the foundation needs to be adequate daily sleep and a diet that gives you the proper fuel for your body.”
As a pro racer, Lucas Euser knows a thing or two about recovery.