In this post, I’ll go over the key parts of my recovery routine that I follow after most training rides.
Hopefully, you can take some ideas from it, as there are a few principles to be found within this process. It’s unlikely to be a perfect example, but it does work for me on a consistent basis.
It’s something I’m always iterating and trying to learn more about. But firstly, why is recovery important?
WHY FOCUS ON RECOVERY?
Optimising your recovery is as important as your workout or training session. One without the other doesn’t produce satisfactory results. At the end of a hard workout, many don’t realise that you’re actually less fit than you were at the start. It’s in the recovery phase though that your body can regenerate and surpass it’s pre-workout fitness level. Recovery is important in the long-term as well as the short term too. Recovering quickly and wholly after workouts will allow you to maintain better training consistency. You can then reap the rewards months down the line.
So, here’s what I do when I get in the door from a hard ride.
The first thing to do is jump straight into the shower. This is especially true in winter when it’s wet and cold. I take a bit of food with me and eat whilst I’m getting out of my riding gear. A banana is usually my go-to. This gets some carbs into the system straight away, whilst still prioritising hygiene. Getting things like saddle sores from a poor attitude to hygiene post-ride can be really detrimental to training consistency. I don’t do ice baths or cold/hot immersion as the data is far from conclusive. I believe it actually hinders the adaption process by reducing inflammation (signalling for body to adapt).
After a hard ride, I try to eat fruit as my first means of fuelling. This is usually in the form of a smoothie, using a blender. I put 1 cup of frozen raspberries, 1 cup of frozen forest fruits, 1-2 bananas and some water in and blend up. Sometimes I add a bit of sugar. Fruits that have been frozen from fresh retain their nutrients better and give the smoothie an appealing cooling vibe. I’ll then have a simple meal with good plant-based protein and carbohydrates. Something like beans on toast, or a bowl of rice flakes with sugar and soya. I also like bean or lentil burgers in a bread bun with some greens like spinach or rocket.
One thing that I’m not good at hydrating and drinking enough. This applies both during and after a ride. What I try to do to combat this is use food as a trigger to get some water down. I occasionally weigh myself after a workout to calculate fluid losses. However, I don’t think this is necessary a lot of the time and certainly not for those who aren’t too serious with their training. Alongside water, I’ll usually drink 1-2 cups of decaffeinated tea too, sometimes black, sometimes with soya or almond milk.
After particularly long rides, I do sometimes nap. This is mainly because I’m so tired, I just end up falling asleep. However, I don’t force it, as I find that it really compromises my evening’s sleep quality. Napping in the day makes it harder for me to fall asleep in the evening, which is where the real magic happens. I do try to sit and get off of my feet though, using the time to work on other things I have going on.
I do have some compression tights which I like from 2XU and some socks by Compressport (I have a few pairs of these) but I don’t use them all that often. Again, the evidence for their benefit isn’t that convincing. I think it’s mostly placebo. Having said that, I don’t think they do any harm and compression socks definitely help when travelling, so I do use them every now and again.
For good recovery, I don’t think you should see a hard ride as an excuse to eat whatever you want, even though you might feel like you’ve earned yourself a reward. Eating real, unprocessed food like fruit, vegetables, rice etc will always produce far higher quality and faster recovery than junk or overly processed options. This doesn’t apply to a race though, where you really will have earned yourself a treat!
Another thing to bear in mind is that recovery starts before a workout has ended too! By fuelling correctly within a workout, you can vastly improve the rate of your recovery afterwards. I use Torq products throughout my rides to do just this.
What does your recovery routine look like? Does it differ greatly from mine? You can let me know in the comments below.