8 Pro Recovery Tips to Enhance your Cycling Career
Every Pro peloton team you can think of utilises recovery, actively building it into their training programmes. This role of recovery is to keep you fresh and rested ready for big events. When a Pro rider races they enter it in the best condition possible. Although you might not be competing in the Tour de France, you still want to give your best whether you are riding a sportive or training ride.
Through building the following recovery tips into your training you will see noticeable improvements in your cycling performance.
All of them are designed to work together to help your muscles repair and energy replenish, helping your body recover faster.
Rest and Sleep
Our bodies recover from training and other physical work when we rest. Pro’s report the hours they sleep to their coaches such is the importance of a good night's rest. Try and get a good night's sleep after long rides and if possible take naps to help your body recover.
Post Ride Nutrition
Eating within thirty minutes (the glycogen window) after your ride is important to good recovery. Pro riders work to the ratio of 3:1 carbohydrate/protein eating a minimum of 20g of protein. It has been proven that taking protein within the glycogen window stimulates muscle protein growth while enhancing the skeletal muscle adaptive response to endurance training. In other words, protein helps your muscles recover.
Carbohydrates and protein work together to replace your glycogen levels which is why the 3:1 ratio is recommended. When you eat protein and carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing your ride, you will recover faster ready for your next cycling session.
Plan your Recovery Meal
When putting together a recovery meal take the following into account:
- Carbohydrates: Replenishes glycogen and help muscle repair
- Protein: Helps to re-build muscles
- Essential fats: Useful to help muscle repair and for inflammation
- Vegetables: Helps repair cell damage
Your recovery meal is the first major meal after a hard ride. It is important to plan this meal with care so you’re eating what your body needs to help you recover, and in turn, keeping you in the best possible condition.
Hydration is just as important to improving recovery times as it is when actually cycling. Water does amazing things when actually riding such as keeping our body temperature lower, helps us to pass nutrients through the right cell membranes, and stops you from dehydrating.
If you consider that a 2% loss in fluids results in a 6% performance loss, and if you lose more than 2% this can be dangerous, you start to realise how important hydration is to your cycling.
The idea behind tapering is to reduce your ride intensity before a big event such as a sportive. When you train fatigue and stress builds up in your body. By reducing training intensity you’ll reduce these stresses and help your body recover from fatigue. As you are still getting out on the saddle you maintain fitness. Come the big event, you perform better as you will be fresher thanks to the reduction in fatigue and stress.
Around 7 – 10 days before your sportive, try reducing the miles a little and factor in rest days to help your body recover. You will feel fresher and be in a better condition to ride in the event.
Incorporate Active Recovery Rides into your Training
Active recovery rides consist of low cadence cycling, effectively cruising rather than challenging rides. This helps blood circulation and reduces lactic acid in your muscles. When incorporated into your training you will recover more quickly.
The mistake is to ride too hard during a recovery ride negating the benefits they bring. It also puts you under more stress which takes its toll over the course of a season.
Cooldown is very important to recovery so try and spend at least ten minutes spinning out your legs at the end of your session. During cooldown, your muscles to contract and for you to expel waste such as carbon dioxide.
Other Activities that Inspire Recovery
As well as the above, there are other activities you can do to inspire recovery. Consider:
- Massage. If you can’t find a willing volunteer you can try using a foam roller massage to soothe tired muscles
- Hot and cold showers and if you can use it ice baths, increase circulation and reduce inflammation
- Stretching helps to keep muscles elastic, reducing the chance of injury and increases blood flow to your muscles
- Elevating your legs above your heart also helps you recover as circulation is improved. Try and do this daily
If you can build recovery into your training you will be a better cyclist and get more from the sport.