How to recover from training more quickly
If you’ve been following my ŠKODA posts, you’ll hopefully have found some useful tips for training, multi-tasking and riding long distance events such as Ride London. I also touched on how you can compliment the things you can do on the bike with those you do off it. Today, I’d like to talk about how to recover quickly from training and how to maximise the amount of training you can cope with.
When we focus on pursuing gains, one of the things we all need is actually rest, which was a real eye opener back when I started training seriously. Whether it’s greater power, speed, stamina or fitness, pretty much every kind of improvement you want to make in cycling requires time on the bike that stresses the body in one of several ways. The adaptations brought on by these sessions are what makes you fitter, but it’s when you’re recovering rather than actually working out that you make improvements.
As I’ve got more into training and made progress, I’ve wanted to up the intensity or volume of my training in order to continue making progress and not stagnate but here’s where I’ve sometimes found an issue – with only so many hours in the week, how do you train hard whilst still having time to recover? Obviously time/diary management comes into it but aside from that, the best thing you can do is to make sure you recover as fast as possible.
So how do you recover quickly from cycling and gym training sessions? The following are methods that I use to optimize recovery so that I can crack on with training again.
When you’ve done a particularly intense training session or race, a gentle ride the next day (usually known as a recovery ride) can be more beneficial than a day off. Personally, I find recovery rides stop my legs from feeling so stiff or sore and mean the following day’s training feels like less of a shock. They’re also enjoyable as I’m able to just look around and immerse myself in the scenery. I’d say that it’s not good for the brain to only ever do ‘hard efforts’ or training rides. Use a recovery ride to unwind the mind whilst you loosen your legs.
Sleep is so important to recovery and if you’re serious about your training you should pay special attention to getting quality z’s. I find it nigh on impossible to sleep if I’ve trained or raced too late in the evening – if you have the option, avoid vigorous exercise within two/three hours of your bedtime. Create a comfortable environment in which to sleep, using blackout blinds, earplugs or eye masks if necessary. Keep the temperature cool then snuggle up in a big duvet. I don’t drink caffeine at all but if you do, avoid it from late afternoon onwards.
There’s a lot of debate about whether compression clothing really is beneficial and I’ve struggled to find much verified independent advice on the subject. It is believed by some that wearing compression tights or socks after cycling improves circulation and oxygenation of the blood and if you look at many of the Pro-Tour teams you’ll see them slipping into compression wear after racing. Personally, I like the feeling of some kind of compression on my legs post exercise and figure that if it makes my legs feel good, it’s worth doing it.
Depending on the length of your ride and its intensity, it’s worth consuming some protein shortly after exercise to help your muscles recover more efficiently. Personally, I would only do this if I’ve ridden for at least 2 hours at moderate intensity or completed a particularly difficult short session. Carbs are also essential, as you’ll have depleted your glycogen stores. If you’re away from home, a recovery drink/bar or chocolate milk are good options but I always prefer to eat real food if I can.
Along with these macronutrients, micronutrients from fruit and vegetables aid recovery by delivering anti-oxidants and some have anti-inflammatory properties too.
I’ll use any excuse to lie on the sofa, which is handy as a horizontal position helps prevent blood pooling in the legs. Elevating your legs, either with a cushion or by laying with them up the wall vertically promotes blood flow.
It’s very easy to return from a ride slightly dehydrated so make sure you rehydrate properly by sipping on water. When you’re dehydrated, your blood is actually more viscous and without proper blood flow you’ll recover more slowly.
It might sound obvious, but one of the best ways of shortening the amount of time it takes to recover is with complete rest. If you’re serious about making gains, time of the bike needs to include plenty of R & R, so don’t feel guilty about vegging out on the sofa – it’s an essential part of your training!
I hope these simple tips will help you recovery quickly from your training so you can get back on your bike refreshed and raring to go. Remember, if you’re training in a cycle, it’s always good to include an easier week each month where you reduce training volume and intensity and allow your body to catch up. It’s often said that you’re more at risk of overtraining than not training enough, so try and get the balance right with plenty of rest.
Please note: I’m not a doctor and the above are just what works for me so if you are in any doubt, please consult a trained professional.