Endurance Cycling – Recovery Techniques for Training and Racing
Part of the puzzle that is endurance cycling is how to improve recovery. Whether it’s during a multi-day event or during your training week, how well you recover will determine how well you do. Learn how to maximize your recovery as you see a big improvement in your performance.
The following tips will help speed your recovery. Remember that you don’t get fitter and faster during training, your gains come when you recover from training.
Access the glycogen window
Immediately after training or competing, have a recovery drink that contains carbohydrates and protein. This can be a pre-packaged recovery drink powder that is convenient in that it only needs to be mixed with water. Products like Hammer Nutrition Recoverite or Endurox can be found at many cycling and running stores. The other option that has been shown to be equally effective in clinical studies is chocolate milk. If you have a way to keep it cold and are not lactose intolerant, then this is an effective and inexpensive recovery drink. The key is to get carbs and protein into your system within 60 minutes of finishing strenuous exercise. A good starting point is to consume 80 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein within an hour of your cycling or training event.
Don’t worry about recovery drinks for your short workouts, but long crunches and runs deplete muscle glycogen, so this will speed recovery. One to two hours after that you can resume eating normal meals.
Stretching after exercise helps keep muscles relaxed, and light contractions help move blood and waste products to help the body recover. Yoga is a great form of stretching as the movement patterns help the body stay limber and increase blood flow, which speeds recovery.
This can be done by a professional or you can use self massage. If you are using self-massage, lie on the floor with your legs resting on the wall so that they are at a 90-degree angle to your body. Knead as many muscles as you can reach for 15 minutes. Having your legs elevated helps drain waste products from your legs, so when you sit down, fresh, nutrient-packed blood floods your legs speeding up the healing process.
Don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lie down. When you’re not training, get up. Take a nap if you can. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. A bad night’s sleep can put a damper on your training week, as it’s hard to catch up on lost sleep.
Hot Baths/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 muscles respond well to heat.
Recovery wrinkles are important both after an event and on rest days. When you’re done with an event, stay on the bike spinning very gently for 20 minutes to rinse off your legs. You don’t want to stop and have the waste products produced during the ride just accumulate in your legs. On the days after hard runs or rides, 20-40 minutes of super easy spinning will allow you to recover faster than complete rest. Increased blood flow to the legs helps get important nutrients to the muscles and removes waste products without being so difficult as to require recovery.
Pay as much attention to recovery as you do to your workouts. You won’t get stronger if you don’t recover from your training and racing. Keep your ego in check and make your easy days easy. You will find that developing a recovery plan that you consistently follow will speed up your progress.