5 Cycling Recovery Tips: How to make the most of your rest days
Recovery is a vital part of a cyclist’s schedule.
Striking the balance between rest and training can be trickier than it sounds. Too many rest days and you’ll risk stagnating, too few and you’re at risk of overtraining.
While most off-the-peg training plans factor in rest days, there’s no one size fits all. Everyone is different and age, cycling experience, work and family stresses, general health and how far out you are from your goal race can all make a difference.
Signs you may need extra rest include:
- an elevated heart rate
- feeling mentally tired
- and not being able to hit your training goals.
Getting to know your body’s signals is a skill that comes with experience though.
These cycling recovery tips will help you rest up for improved performance in the saddle.
- ELEVATE YOUR LEGS
If you’ve just done a hard training ride, lying down with your legs against a wall can help drain fluids that may be pooling in the legs, reduce swelling and also gently stretch your hamstrings, all helping with recovery.
If you’re feeling faint or dizzy, it will also get blood flow back to the brain. British Cycling recommends aiming to stay there for five minutes for every hour ridden.
2. TRY A BIT OF SELF-MASSAGE
While it’d be great to schedule in a sports massage each week, not all of us have the time or the money.
Luckily self-massage tools such as foam rollers, massage balls and sticks offer similar benefits, helping remove waste products, reduce inflammation and encourage blood flow to promote good recovery.
Include some mobility work
Keeping muscles supple and in good condition with mobility work will reduce your chance of injury. It also allows your muscles to work to their full range of motion during exercise, which can improve your performance.
In addition, it may also help relieve symptoms of muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise.
3. RELAX YOUR MIND AND BODY
During deep sleep, your body produces the human growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair.
A lack of sleep can make you moody, unfocused, increases production of the stress hormone cortisol and ups your rate of perceived exertion — so training feels like much harder work. In short, if you want to recover and train at your best, you need some decent shut eye.
Mental recovery is probably more important for me than physical recovery. As well as giving your body time to rest and recover, you need to give your mind some downtime too, particularly if you’re trying to train alongside other demands such as work and family.
4. FUEL UP WITH LIQUIDS AND SOLIDS.
While most of us drink little and often on the bike, after a hard or long training session and in warmer weather, dehydration is likely.
That makes it harder for your heart to pump blood and oxygen around your body, slowing the recovery process.
When you get back from a shorter, easy ride drinking water should be enough but if it’s been a tough day in the saddle, you’ll want to replace some of the electrolytes — such as sodium — which you’ve lost too.
Nutrition is a key weapon in your recovery arsenal.
After a long or tough session, taking on carbs to replace the energy lost during exercise will boost your glycogen stores, while protein will help repair muscles and muscle soreness.
5. TRY ACTIVE RECOVERY
Rest and recovery usually mean putting your feet up and doing very little. However, in certain circumstances, such as the days following a big race, you may find active recovery beneficial.
Active recovery consists of doing some form of exercise, such as a very easy spin on the bike to get the blood moving.
When you train, you’re putting your body under stress and breaking down muscles and it’s during recovery that these muscles repair, adapt and grow stronger so that the same workout feels easier next time.
If you don’t give yourself recovery time to rest and repair post-ride, then you won’t progress and you’re also putting yourself at risk of illness, injury and over-training. Rest days are essential.