When I was a much younger cyclist, I never really gave much thought to recovery post cycle training. Like most young, healthy athletes recovering from cycle races or big training efforts was never really a problem. Cycling is a tough sport and as you get that bit older, rest and recovery become more significant as you try to manage your overall fitness, performance levels and cycle training plans. The good news is that with proper rest and recovery built into your schedule you can still continue to perform at a high level well into middle age and beyond whether it’s cycle racing, touring, triathlon or taking part in your favorite cycle sportives.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to rest and recovery. There’s some basics that you should follow but really, it’s a case of working out through trial and error what components will give your cycling performance the best outcome on an ongoing basis.
There’s no rocket science to what I do. In fact, most of what I do is fairly straight forward but the important thing from my perspective is that I have rest and recovery scheduled in and I do my best to stick with the plan. I’m happy to share what I focus on for rest and recovery and if you’re not already doing some or all of these things it may be worthwhile considering how you might incorporate these into your own schedule.
Immediately after a cycle race :
On completing a cycle race, I try and cycle a few kms as a warm down at a very relaxed pace, spinning a small gear and allowing my body time to return to a more normal state (heart rate, blood pressure, etc) following the exertions of the bicycle race.
Before getting changed I always have a protein/carb-based recovery shake. This is normally within 15/20 minutes of the race finish and it’s the most opportune time to take on nourishment to kick start recovery.
I start focussing on hydration, particularly on warm days where fluids are easily lost and need replacing.
On returning home :
I will always have something reasonably substantial to eat with a focus on including protein to aid repair and carbs to replenish my glycogen stores. When I eat dinner later in the day I’ll also focus on protein and carbs. I also try to avoid alcohol.
When possible, I’ll have a 1 hour afternoon nap. Even if I can’t sleep which is sometimes the case after cycle racing, I will stay in bed and rest for that period.
I continue to focus on hydration throughout the day.
Later in the day I’ll do some general stretching to ease out the main muscle groups after the earlier efforts.
The night after a cycle race I’ll try to get to bed at a reasonable hour and get 8 hours shut eye to help the recovery along.
The following day :
I try to stay off my feet as much as I possibly can. Not always easy when you have to work, I know.
Normally I categorise days after cycle races as recovery days. This doesn’t mean that I do nothing. If I’m not working with clients, what I will try to do is ‘active’ recovery. I will typically do around 40 mins easy paced riding on a turbo trainer using low gears and spinning out a high cadence in order to reinvigorate my legs.
Following this and being fully warmed up I’ll complete some more stretching and core stability work.
I’ll focus on eating well and getting good sleep. Eating well and getting good sleep on an ongoing basis are probably two of the most important steps that you can take to aid recovery.
So, there you have it. Nothing difficult here. Really, it’s a case of finding a routine that suits your cycle performance level and fits with all the other stuff that’s going on in your life. The key in my opinion is when you find that routine to stick with it and enhance it as you experience new things which may prove beneficial to you.