Friday, 3 May 2013


This week's post was almost a grovelling admission for not following my training plan very diligently. After weeks of not missing a single session, something seemed to snap this week, a combination of too many evening commitments perhaps and what felt like a bit of a minor ear infection. Missed Tuesday's recovery ride as a result and was also in course to miss yesterday morning's turbo intervals as just couldn't muster the motivation to get out of bed when my 06:00 alarm went off.

Luckily the diary fairy intervened and yesterday's night out with the boys was cancelled, leaving the evening free and me without any more excuses. Did the full 1h30m session in the end, which was quite amusing as it was pretty late by then, I'd forgotten to turn on any lights in the living room and by the end I literally couldn't see my hand in front of my face, the only light in the room was the eerie luminescent glow emanating from the Garmin which was quite surreal, I felt like I was pedalling in space towards the end. Pretty sure that's not what David Millar had in mind when he wrote Racing through the Dark

Anyway I am feeling back on track after this momentary blip in self-discipline and looking forward to putting some decent miles in this weekend in what promises to be the best cycling weather of 2013 so far. Off to Oxon to see some friends and turns out there's a nice little sportive happening at Didcot on Sunday so that's convenient.

The whole week has got me thinking again about the importance of recovery, though. I felt good last weekend but by Tuesday it seemed I had been pushing myself a bit too much. The lesson sadly being that 36-year-olds can either have a busy social life or a training regime but the two aren't particularly compatible at this age sadly.

There is so much out there about recovery that I won't regurgitate it all now, but here are a few top tips I've learned in recent years. I've ordered these in pretty much the order that they should happen after every ride to be most effective. Most of this is obvious but still surprises me how many people neglect these steps and then get ill/injured further down the line: -

  1. Recovery begins on the bike: I'll write a more detailed piece about cycling nutrition soon but in the meantime, know that by making sure you eat and drink enough on the bike, you'll be ensuring not only an enjoyable ride but getting a head start on recovery afterwards as well
  2. Get it down you: Make the most of your recovery by chugging back a recovery drink within 20 mins of the end of your ride. This is the optimum window for refuelling muscles and getting carbs back into the system. Without getting too technical, look for something that offers the optimum carbs:protein ratio of 2:1. Plain old milk works pretty well, low-fat chocolate milk even more so. If you've really pushed it or are on a multi day ride where overnight recovery is particularly important, there are some good commercial products out there, my personal favourite of which is For Goodness Shakes, ideally in bottled form although the instant powdered version tastes surprisingly good too. 
  3. H2O: Also a good idea to knock back a pint of water whilst you stretch to kick-start the rehydration process, again if you've drunk diligently on the ride you should already be in a good place hopefully
  4. Stretch: I've done long multi-day tours in the Alps/Pyrenees, I've done century sportives and it never ceases to amaze me how many people overlook this vital step. Possibly because cycling is a low-impact sport and you don't get the same muscular pounding as runners do, say, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't bother. Stretching has a whole range of benefits, obviously aiding recovery and mitigating the onset of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) but it can also assist with muscular development as well as keeping you nice and toned and supple of course. Stretch all your major muscle groups, not just your legs, and ideally hold each stretch for a combined total of 20 seconds, the first 10 of which should be gentle, the second 10 a bit more intensive as this will help to improve flexibility etc. Stretching can feel like a chore but it makes a real difference.
  5. Eat: One of the best things about cycling is how it enables relatively guilt-free eating. Within a couple of hours, make sure you have a hearty meal, by hearty I mean balanced and containing a good range of macro-nutrients of course. If you've just finished the Marmotte you can definitely eat that entire pizza without guilt but don't go crazy, chances are your tummy is still feeling a bit delicate anyway and even if it isn't, junk food is generally exactly that. Aim for a decent balance of protein, complex carbs, vegetables and healthy fats, I find that burritos can work quite well but don't go crazy on the cheese/soured cream.
  6. Sleep: The magic ingredient and again an area often overlooked or compromised upon by busy people who have to hold down adult responsibilities alongside training. The magic really happens whilst you're asleep, this is when your body releases powerful stuff like human growth hormone (HGH). Learn to see the fabled eight hours a night as a bare minimum rather than an aspirational goal. You'll always meet people who boast they can survive on four hours a night like Margaret Thatcher but that's just it, they are merely surviving rather than thriving, so do yourself a favour and get as much of the good stuff as you can. It makes a big difference and you'll feel like a whole new person, trust me. Ditto recovery days, make sure you take one after your weekly long rides or harder turbo sessions, again then is when your body adjusts itself to training load and improves. 
Most of this is common sense and I don't profess to be an expert, let alone a coach or doctor. I've just found that following these steps religiously makes a lot of difference to how I feel the day after a long ride or hard turbo session, though. They can be quite a satisfying part of the ritual as well. See how they work for you and by all means use the comments tab to add any tips of your own. 

Happy riding,

PS: You will read plenty about the benefits of new-fangled things like compression socks as well and it's true that elevating the legs after a hard ride does help to drain the lactic, I have just tried to angle these tips more towards the common man who doesn't particularly want to spend Sunday afternoons wearing what are effectively women's tights. Ditto for ice baths, which again work well but are also unpleasant and not something I'd recommend unless you've just finished Ironman Kona.

No comments:

Post a Comment