One of the ways you become a better cyclist is through muscular adaptation. In very basic terms, this is what happens: The stress of training causes micro tears in your muscles. Your body then repairs the damage, which results in an inflammatory response (the swelling and tenderness you feel after a hard workout or race). The rebuilding process that follows creates stronger muscles—but only if the body has adequate time to heal. If you start your next hard ride when you’re not completely recovered your body is at a disadvantage. If you do this too many times you’ll grow more tired and gain less from each workout.
But recovery isn’t just about sitting on the couch with your legs up. It’s also about not going hard all the time and using rest days wisely. Strategies like low-intensity rides, stretching, yoga and massage will help your muscles recover faster.
10 ways to maximize every minute you spend in—and out—of the saddle.
1. The harder the workout = the more recovery time you will need. Generally speaking 48hrs should be enough, unless you made a huge jump in your training volume/intensity or you a hard race. Then you may need an extra day or two before you jump back into training.
2. To help your legs recover: elevate them, ice them or wear compression tights right after a hard/long ride.
3. Ride a short (45-60min) recovery ride the day after an intense ride. Keep your recovery rides light and easy, spinning the legs with very little intensity.
4. To replace the lost glycogen, eat immediately after all hard/long rides. Mainly carbs with only a small amount of protein and fat.
5. Stretch hip flexors, quads and hamstrings on a regular/daily basis.
6. Use your time off the bike to cross train with swimming or weight training focusing on core and upper body only. Keep the weights light on the legs. Hard leg training is best done in the off season.
7. Your body is trying to heal from the moment you get off the bike until you get back on again so plan meals ahead of time so you are eating every 3hrs, fuelling the fire.
8. Muscles do most of their repair during sleep. Get at least 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
9. If you are suffering from fatigue, frequent colds/flu, frequent injuries or just general fatigue, it may mean that you are overtraining. Take a few days off and ease back into it slowly.
10. Increase volume and/or intensity by only 10% each week.