The UK cycling community is huge and growing all the time. It’s estimated that 1.3 million people got back on their bikes during lockdown. But the difference between an ambitious amateur and a seasoned pro isn’t always in how they train - it’s how they recover. Here are 4 ways you can recover like a pro cyclist and start reaching your goals even faster.
Cyclist Recovery: Cool Down
When you’re feeling pumped after a big ride, it's tempting to jump off your bike and get on with your day. However, it’s important to remember that how you wrap up your last session can impact your next. When we cycle blood gets pooled in our lower body - and so does metabolic waste. This can not only inhibit your recovery but also impact your overall progress and performance. Make time at the end of each ride to do at least ten minutes spinning at a lower gear. This will help redistribute the blood around your body and speed up recovery time.
Stretching after any exercise is an essential part of optimising recovery, but for cyclists it’s crucial. We’ve all felt the hamstring burn after a limit-pushing track session, but when cycling at a competitive level your whole body is engaged - from your core to your shoulders. To ensure you’re always primed to work at peak condition, full-body stretches and mobility should be incorporated into both your warm-down sessions and weekly training routine. Think calf stretches, yoga poses like downward dog and if you need some extra inspiration, check out British Cycling’s Mobility Guide.
Cyclist Recovery: Compression & Massage
Just as we set goals for training and competitions, we should set them for recovery. The main goal of recovery time is to get the blood redistributed around your body as quickly as possible. This will help myofascial release, reduce lactic acid build-up and promote muscle regeneration.
Massage is absolutely key to all of the above. Whilst you can’t always have a sports masseuse and physiotherapist waiting for you at the finish line, handheld massage guns can have the same impact, on the go or in the comfort of your own home. Tools like the MyoPro use percussive massage to speed up recovery time and reduce the chance of sore, tired muscles - so you are ready to get back to your training schedule straight away. This technique has also proven to reduce the risk of injury and improve mobility - so MyoPro could help you optimise your performance as well as recovery.
Compression is also a powerful recovery tool. By wearing compression clothing for just 15 minutes after a workout, you’ll improve circulation and oxygenation of your blood by 15% and increase toxin elimination by around 13%. And that’s just with regular compression tights. If you want to take it up a level, the MyoPump pulse compression leg pumps are scientifically proven to enhance and accelerate recovery, reduce DOMs and decrease pain.
Cyclist Recovery: Recovery Rides
Your body is fine-tuned to recover as much as possible when it gets the chance. If you step away from the bike for a day, it will grab the opportunity to go into shutdown mode. Whilst rest days are crucial, that doesn’t mean you should be totally static. A relaxed recovery ride will keep your body awake and limber. That way, you'll be primed and ready to power up at your next training session.
You should work recovery rides into your training schedule once or twice a week. Always try to have one in the diary for the day after a big race. Ride for 30-60 minutes on a flat course that isn’t going to push your heart rate too much. You might want to throw in a few low gear sprints to help prevent heavy legs, but otherwise keep it pretty low energy - you want to aid recovery rather than add to your fatigue. 85% of cyclists push too hard on their recovery rides, so aim to be in the 15% who are optimising both their recovery and future performance.
Cyclist Recovery: Nutrition
When working at peak level, your body is a machine - and machines need fuel. A good rule to remember for recovery is the 3 Rs - Rehydrate, Replenish, Repair. You want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids for the rest of the day after a big session. Water will go some way to actively rehydrating your body, but you also need to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat. Sports drinks containing sodium promote absorption of water into the small intestine and help reduce visits to the toilet - perfect to rehydrate you.
Drinks with sugar can also start to help build up your depleted glycogen stores. However, you need to fuel up on carbs to really replenish them. Simple carbohydrates - like white rice - are great directly after a tough ride as they release glycogen faster. Later in the day go for complex-carbs - like sweet potatoes. They’ll continue to increase your glycogen stores but are also full of nutrients like fibre and vitamin C. When it comes to muscle repair - protein is your biggest nutritional ally. The muscles torn during exercise will rebuild during recovery - and protein can help them come back bigger and stronger. Try to eat a protein rich snack or meal - directly after your training session or race - peanut butter energy balls and a chicken and rice bowl dinner is our go-to!