Do you pay attention to how you recover after a bike ride? Do you have a set routine whereby you know what you’re doing from the moment you get off the bike?
I know that sounds a little pedantic, but if you’re looking to recover as quick as you can, then it’s important to establish your own post ride recovery routine.
As a beginner, it’s easy to think that training ends as soon as the bike ride ends. For you this might be the case, but it is not the case for your body. In fact, your body has to work hard ‘off the bike’ over the next 24 hours plus to: repair muscle and restore carb stores etc., – just to get you fitter for that next bike ride!
So, it makes sense in that case to learn to ‘self monitor’ how your body recovers and optimise this as best you can through following a post ride recovery routine.
What’s important is you don’t leave the routine to chance. Think right now about what you do to recover, or ‘could do better’ to help your recovery. Become conscious of the steps of the routine. Then, practice different routines until you find the one that makes you feel the most rested and refreshed before your next cycle ride…and then stick to it!
Here’s an example of the 10 steps I personally take after EVERY single bike ride to optimise my recovery. You’ll notice that the post ride recovery routine lasts a good 24 hours (depending on how hard you trained)…
1. Cool down properly! Recovery starts at the end of every bike ride. I slow down and make sure I’m in an easy gear. I disregard my speedometer and let my legs spin over for the last 2 miles home. Do this after every cycle ride be it a hard club run, a 100 mile sportive, or an easy training ride.
2. Stretch after every bike ride! I always do some light stretching as soon as I get off the bike. This is arguably the best time to stretch because the muscles are warm and responsive, rather than before a bike ride when they are cold and prone to injury. I stretch my back, arms, legs and calves and it takes no longer than 5 minutes. I also make sure I’m out of any cold drafts whilst I stretch.
3. Eat a snack rich in carbs and a little protein! It’s important to eat as soon as you get home. I eat before getting changed because I know how necessary it is to get food inside me. You want to optimise restoring carbs as soon as you can. Research shows that a large percentage of carb replacement can happen within 15 mins of getting in from a bike ride. I eat simple food: cereal and banana, or bagel peanut butter, or tuna sandwich. No more than a snack, but enough to fill a hunger gap.
4. Get a shower or bath! As you’ve hung around now for 20 mins, it’s important now to not get too cold! So getting a hot shower or bath is important. Warm water is soothing on tired legs – as you most likely already know! I don’t know any experienced cyclists who ‘skip’ getting a hot shower or bath after a hard bike ride or race…let me know if you’re different!
5. Keep your feet up! After a long bike ride I do my best to keep my feet up as much as I can. This gives those tired muscles time to repair. However, if I’m feeling a little leg stiffness mid afternoon, a gentle 20 minute walk can help wonders too. The fresh air again oxygenates my system. I also nap if my body is calling for me to sleep. In fact, I’m known to nap after every long bike ride - and accept it as part of my recovery routine.
6. Hydrate! I continually monitor my hydration status throughout the day, night and morning until I get out cycling again. I never do my next bike ride unless I see clear/pale urine. You should adopt a similar approach. Drink plenty water and remember to drink about 1 pint before you get up in the morning. Hydration for me is KEY to my speed of recovery as I dehydrate relatively quickly.
7. Eat a nourishing evening meal! Give your body what it needs and it will reward you in faster recovery, better fitness and overall good health. Before you pile on the pasta, think about what would be more nourishing. Unless I’m racing or doing a sportive the next day, I don’t opt for pasta!
I eat boiled potatoes, lean fish or beef/chicken casserole and make a massive salad. I finish off with fruit or a yoghurt, but rarely ice-cream. At meal time I drink fruit juice watered down to aid absorption of iron and rarely drink alcohol. Alcohol dries me out and then gives me a headache, so I just stay clear of it when training hard.
8. Get to bed in good time! How well you sleep has huge repercussions on how well you recover! If you’ve done a hard training your body is most likely crying out for a good night’s sleep. Sleep well and your recovery will be greatly enhanced. Do note that one night with ‘lack of sleep,’ say before an important race or sportive, usually doesn’t affect your cycle performance. What’s important is you get a good nights sleep in the days leading up to an event and then the night before doesn’t matter too much.
9. Hydrate first thing in the morning! Make sure you drink a good pint of water before getting up. It will make the world of difference to ‘how you feel’ by mid morning. Much of morning sluggishness can be attributed to dehydration. I have a pint of water by my bed and that way I’m reminded to drink it before I get up!
10. Eat your breakfast! Make sure you have a king sized breakfast, e.g. oats and a boiled egg washed down with a glass of fresh orange juice makes an excellent start to the day, whether it’s a recovery day or a day in the saddle.
And before you ride again, remember to ASK yourself how you’re feeling: are you still too heavy legged, or are you rearing to get out cycling? Then, ask yourself one more time how you feel when cycling your first few miles? If not up for the ride, be honest about it - head home and ‘leave it out’ until another day.
My biggest motto for cycle training is to: listen to your body! The more you get ‘in tune’ with your body, the more it will work in harmony with you and your cycling.
So are you aware of your recovery routine or do you leave it to chance? I’d love to hear variations to my own routine. If this post was useful do share with your friends and as always I look forward to hearing from you!