Recovery all starts on the bike - The important first step to recovery is beginning the recovery process while on the saddle. Keep the body hydrated, fueled, and try not to finish the ride completely empty. Think about it this way; if you limit the loss of fluids and fuel, the body has less to restore, thus shortening your recovery time. Also remember that it doesn’t take long to lose valuable fluids. You could be keeping your fluid balance up to par, then climb a 10 minute hill in the heat and quickly become dehydrated. Always assume that you are trying to catch up your hydration and energy levels.
As soon as the ride is complete – Make sure you do an easy spin with the pedals to keep the legs loose and begin the process of clearing byproducts (or waste products) out of your system. After your cool down, return to you house or car and immediately get out of cycling cloths and clean your body of excess sweat and dirt (or shower if you can.). Standing around in that nasty chamois ain’t cool, no matter what your jersey looks like. This would also be a good time to weigh yourself (without cycling cloths) to see how much water weight you have lost. Obviously, the closer your weight pre and post race, the better, but the difference in weight can give you an idea about how much fluid you need to ingest to stay equal. A good rule of thumb is to stay under 2% in lost water weight.
Recovery nutrition – Recovery nutrition starts with making sure you restore lost fluids. In fact, it’s easier to just think about the whole fluid thing as an ongoing process. Place bottles of water in strategic areas and every time you walk by that bottle, take a sip. Places like the car, the office desk, and the kitchen. Next, glycogen stores need to be replenished and it’s best to begin that process as soon as possible after you are done with your workout or race. Prepare for this by taking food to your race or have it ready when you get home. It’s best to focus more on carbohydrates at this point with the goal is getting protein and additional carbohydrates 2+ hours after you are finished.
Stretching – We’ve written about the benefits of stretching for cyclists many times. A lot of cyclists feel that stretching is not needed, but that is one of cycling’s biggest myths. An ongoing stretching routine will keep the muscles smooth and supple and eliminate tension of the large muscle groups while riding, especially in a more aerodynamic position. It can eliminate a lot of potential stiffness, especially the mornings after races or long, hard training rides.
Massage – Not much to say here, just wish I could have one on a daily basis! The only caution is to not do deep tissue massage the day before a big race or hard effort. Use it more to aide recovery after these efforts.