The ability to continue to train repeatedly without sickness or injury comes down to a few factors, but mainly this might be how well your body recovers. If you finish a hard ride, set of intervals, race or even endurance ride and simply stop you might not giving your body the best chance to repair damage done by the next time you ride. Of course recovery is a very personal choice and if you’ve read my How to Cool-Down… blog you’ll already be armed with some tools for this. If you;d like further reading, you might also want to check out my Ultimate Guide to Recovery, which goes into even further detail than this blog.
Lets start with immediately after an event, session or ride. The first thing you might do is sink a recovery shake. I’m a fan of plant based, they tend to have better ingredients and try to find one with less additives and designed for athletes. Once you’ve drank your shake you might do one of a few other things that should be designed to help your body to return to pre-exercise state as quickly as possible.
Stretching, which was covered on my How to Cool-Down… blog, will loosen up any firm muscles and help increase blood circulation to them. This will reduce muscle soreness and injury risk. Some riders’ do a specific cool-down session on the bike or a turbo trainer. This might be a reverse of a warm-up the idea being to reduce heart rate and relax muscles in a similar way to stretching. This should help to flush out any lactic acid build up. Again this element of recovery is very important if you want to train again the next day.
Why not watch my stretching video so you have an idea of what to do next time:
What you do on rest days, or as I call them recovery days, is again a very personal thing. If you really want to recover well I’d always recommend at least one full rest day per week. These should be feet up full rest. You want your body to be back to as close to 100% as possible for your next session in order to get the maximum benefit form it.
Recovery rides might replace a training day and not a rest day. If you know your maximum heart rate or maximum minute power you can use simple calculation to work out at what percentage of these you need to train below in order for it to be a recovery ride. If you are training using power you should remain at less than 35% of your maximum and with heart rate you need to be below 60%. If you can use both this will ensure you remain in what is called the recovery zone. Training any higher than these might mean you are causing unnecessary strain on your muscles, therefore you will not be recovering. I thoroughly believe you should do all recovery rides indoors, hills, traffic and weather will be a factor in your rides outside and all have the potential to turn a recovery ride into an endurance one.
The final element of recovery is prolonged periods of rest. Sounds daunting to anyone who hasn’t or doesn’t take regular time off from training and racing but sometimes it is needed. A perfect example of when to take a prolonged period of rest is at the end of the cycling season. By the end you should be starting to fatigue, even if you might not realise it. The issue will be that if you start to flag and your training isn’t progressing as well as you’d like you may be forced to rest during the off season and destroying a lot of your hard work. So seriously consider taking rest between seasons. Depending on how hard you are training and what you are training for you may find that rest at other points in the season is necessary too, but this can be monitored by training progression, resting heart rates and other fitness and performance indicators.
As I say above, recovery is very much a personal element to any training programme, you need to experiment with different recovery techniques and continue with those that are effective and not bother with those are not. Hopefully if you take some of this advice your training will become far more effective and your muscles less sore, win-win.