By Steve Owens, Colorado Premier Training
When you're riding, you're stressing your heart and lungs, muscles, ligaments, joints and mind. Resting is just as important as riding! Without rest, you'll wind up overtraining, burning out or getting hurt.
Recovery Step 1: replenish and replace
Make it a priority to drink plenty of fluids with either added sugars or natural sugars (such as milk) right after your workout.
Now's NOT the time to worry about carbs—the higher on the glycemic index, the better. The sugar you ingest stimulates an insulin spike that helps bring the sugar from your blood to a stored version called glycogen. You rely on your glycogen stores to fuel your workouts!
Combine your carbs with a little protein (6 to 20 grams total) post-workout for the ultimate recovery meal. Good examples include a plain bagel with a tablespoon of peanut butter, a protein shake with skim milk and a banana, raisin bran or Cheerios with milk.
Remember, water, water, water! Water is the backbone of recovery. If you wait until you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
Recovery Step 2: stretching
Spend about 10 minutes stretching after cool-down and before bed. Don't use when muscles are cold and prone to being pulled or torn. You can stretch any time as long as your muscles are at normal to elevated temperatures. Spend 30 to 60 seconds on each stretch, making sure to give equal time on both sides of your body. If you repeat the stretch on both sides again, blood flow increases, which forces waste products out of cells and into the bloodstream. Stretch your legs, arms, neck, back, wrists and feet.
Recovery Step 3: massage
We're not talking about deep tissue massage. The idea is to flush muscles of waste product and open capillaries. Strokes should not be painful and should always flow toward the heart. To learn self-massage, start with slower, higher-pressure squeezing strokes and shift to lighter, quicker motions after several minutes. We recommend daily self-massage following the event, after training or stretching, and before bed.
Recovery Step 4: relieve sore muscles and treat injuries
Direct heat: Use direct heat several hours after high-intensity workouts. Don't use the day before or day of a high-priority race or during multi-day events. Don't use heat until two to three days after the initial injury because it will increase bruising and swelling. When you apply heat directly to your legs using hot towels, a heated spa or a hot shower, you can help relieve sore muscles several hours after a workout and increase blood flow within the muscle. Apply heat for at least 10 minutes to allow muscle temperature to increase, but for less than 20 minutes.
Direct cooling: Use as soon as possible after an injury to reduce swelling and bruising. Don't use within one hour before a race or workout. Place ice in a plastic Ziplock bag or use an icepack (wrap in a towel to prevent skin damage). Ice the injured area for 10 to 20 minutes, and then leave it off for an equal amount of time.
Hot/cold contrast: Use hot/cold contrast two days after a muscle or tendon injury. Don't use the day before or day of a high-priority race or during multi-day events. You can increase blood flow and help injured muscles and tendons recover by rotating heat and cold. Standard protocol is 10 to 20 minutes of heat, followed by five to 15 minutes of ice for four to eight cycles.
Recovery Step 5: rest
Yes, naps! Get at least seven hours of sleep before a training ride or an event day, and take a nap afterward. The majority of growth hormone is released during sleep. Growth hormone helps in muscle development and aids in recovery. Without proper sleep, you are sure to over-train, and instead of improvements, you'll begin a downward spiral in your performance. Enough said!
Recovery Step 6: active recovery
Sometimes the only way to get the lead out is to work a little. If you are really sore immediately after a workout, stay on your bike for a very, very easy ride. This technique works well as a workout substitution if you're really sore. Don't view it as an additional workou - the point is to recover. Don't do it if you're purely tired and rundown. In that case, rest is in order.