Summer time brings good weather and often a more relaxed schedule to enjoy long rides. It is also the season for races and peak training, which means more hours spent on the bike for most of us. However, the fun of the cycling season is counterbalanced by the additional demands the heat and the higher mileage puts on the body. It is easier to become dehydrated and exhausted during a hot ride, and it can take much longer to recover from them unless you focus on the recovery as much as you have focused on our training goals. Here are some tried-and-true tips for the most efficient recovery so you can be back on your bike before long.
Rehydrate and Replenish
Summer riding means high temperatures and lots of fluid loss during long rides. First and foremost, drink during your ride. But even if you consumed a sports drink throughout your ride, the chances are you are dehydrated and have exhausted most of your glycogen in your muscles by the end. Rehydrating and replenishing the lost fluids is your first step to an efficient recovery. A recovery drink that has carbohydrates and protein in a 4:1 ratio, such as low-fat chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie made with low-fat yogurt and milk, consumed within 30-45 minutes of your ride, will jump start your recovery. Another summer favorite: low-fat Greek yogurt (such as Fage) topped with berries and drizzled with honey. It is so delicious that you will forget it is also good for you.
Even if you are watching your calorie intake and have a long-term weight loss goal, make sure you get enough calories after a workout to allow your body to start repairing those hard-worked muscles.
There is only one fluid to avoid for a little while after your ride because it will make you even more dehydrated. Postpone your alcohol intake: if you enjoy a post-workout or post-race beer, wait until you are well rehydrated and rested.
Stretch and Ice
Maybe you’ve been slacking with your yoga practice or think you’re not flexible enough, but that is no reason to skip a few easy post ride stretches. Hitting a few key muscles that get overworked during a long ride will stave off injuries and help with muscle recovery.
If your knees or joints have been giving you problems, ice them after stretching for 20 mins. To help your legs recover, try filling the tub 1/3 deep with cold water and dump in a bucket of ice. Then soak your legs for 15 mins before heading to the shower.
When to Back Off
Yes, we all want to be supermen and superwomen and be able to crank out each and every workout on our training plan perfectly. But then there is the everyday reality… The day after a sleepless night… Hours spent on planes thanks to a peak in work travel… Or the thermometer topping 95F with 90% humidity… Heat, sleep, stress, and altitude are all factors that adversely affect our performance and make workouts feel much harder than they would on good days. Be sure to adjust your pace and training goals on high altitude, hard terrain, and days where your energy stores are drained. Give yourself an extra recovery day if you trained long and hard under one of these situations.
Give your body an honest assessment and rate your state. Give it a green light if you have plenty of energy and can’t wait for the next ride. A yellow light if you’re a little sluggish and have lower-than-usual motivation. If your legs feel heavy even before you start a workout, or you’ve really struggled in your recent workout(s), then you’re in the red. Adjust your training workload by
- Taking a rest day instead of carrying out a planned easy workout.
- Reducing the effort: shortening your ride or dropping the hard intervals within your ride.
- Getting extra sleep.
Keep these in mind for rewarding summer rides and a stronger body.