8 Tips for Better Bike Recovery

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This guy knows how to take recovery seriously/Photo: Getty Images
This guy knows how to take recovery seriously/Photo: Getty Images

Lay the foundation off the bike for a stronger performance in the saddle.

by Jason Lentzke

Cycling is a taxing sport. In order to flourish in your workouts and on race day, try to dedicate three to four sessions per week to cycling, and remember to implement proper recovery techniques throughout your training. The recipe for success is simple—listen to your body and balance your training load. Follow these tips to get the most out of your body on and off the bike. 

1. Stick to the plan: Follow your session's guidelines and don't be tempted to do an extra repetition or go harder than prescribed. As an endurance athlete, your next workout starts during the current one. If you don't have a plan set in place, now is as good a time as any to find a coach and get a plan tailored just for you. 

2. Fuel your session: Under-fueling your session can negatively impact future training sessions by increasing recovery time. Cyclists who put themselves into a nutritional deficit are much more prone to injury, fatigue, and general irritability. Fueling strategies are unique to each athlete and can be dictated by an athlete's sweat rate and the training environment. For a 90-minute session, drinking 20-22 ounces of water per hour during exercise is recommended. If you're deep into a training cycle aim to drink 8-10 oz of a sports drink (with no more than 8 percent percent carbohydrate) every 20 minutes and a gel every 30 minutes. 

3. Refuel and rehydrate: If your bike session is more than 90 minutes, it's critical to squeeze in a regenerative meal within 15-20 minutes of completing your training. Your body is particularly responsive to carbohydrates (replenish glycogen stores) and protein (repair muscle trauma) during this 15-20 minute window. Set an alarm if you have to because you shouldn't miss out on this opportunity to eat! It's especially important if you have another session on the same day. Consuming at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily in addition to what you sweat out during your session is crucial in order to stay properly hydrated. For every pound of water weight lost (16 oz of sweat), drink 2-3 cups of water. A tasty and replenishing post-workout recovery snack for a 90-minute session is a simple smoothie with greek yogurt, banana, nut butter, and ice. Eat real food that will reduce inflammation and stabilize blood sugar. 

4. Shake it out: Go for a very easy 10 minute jog/walk after a hard bike session to improve blood flow, flush out lactic acid, and loosen up your legs (singing Taylor Swift's, "Shake it off" on your run is also highly recommended). This will expedite your recovery time and improve your run durability. It doesn't need to be fast to be effective. "Slow is pro!" 

5. Keep moving: Don't stack consecutive hard cycling days. Remember that in order to go fast, sometimes you need to go slow—even embarrassingly slow at times. "Slow is pro," remember? Riding easy the day after a hard bike session is a good way to absorb fitness and expedite recovery. When you're planning out your week, be sure to place a light swim, easy ride, or yoga the day after a hard effort on the bike.  

6. Massage and compression:  Treat yourself by booking a monthly recovery massage. Massages can reduce tightness, increase blood flow, and manipulate fatigued muscles that will reduce recovery time. Chat with your local cycling club to find a massage therapist who understands the pressures of a cyclist's body. Then put your feet up after you put on compression clothing or compression boots, which will help to minimize recovery time and potentially improve performance. Find a compression garment that fits comfortably snug and reap the benefits of improved circulation and expedited recovery on and off the bike. 

7. Sleep harder: Similar to a toddler, it's important for your training to establish a consistent routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Turn your smart phone/tablet off at least 60 minutes before your head hits the pillow to help quiet your mind. Try to pick up a book instead of falling asleep to the glow of a TV. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is OK, but eight to 10 is better. You'd be surprised how much better you feel even with just 30 minutes of extra sleep. 

8. Listen to your body: The omnipresence of technology and gadgets in the current state of sport can make it easy to get hung up on the metrics while you're on the bike. However, the strongest and most accurate computer is between your ears. If your training session calls for intervals and your body is telling you that it's not going to happen, respect that. Let your coach know that you simply didn't have the legs for the prescribed workout and move on. That is part of being an athlete. In order to avoid injury, listen to your body and schedule a weekly rest day to help keep your training consistent week after week, month after month. 

Jason Lentzke is a certified cycling coach and owner of Toro Performance in Phoenix, AZ. 

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