Saturday, December 9, 2017

Train Hard...recover Harder!

You don't get stronger by training harder, you get stronger by recovering harder.  When you cycle train hard, you're essentially tearing down the muscle fibers of the quadraceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves- in your legs.  Those small muscle membranes are torn-up/damaged.  That's the muscle soreness you experience 8-12 hrs. after a hard ride that can last 24 hrs.  When you recover, those muscle fibers in your leg are re-building stronger and acclimating to the stress they've been seeing lately..and readying themselves for the next hard effort.  Yet, most cyclists don't spend much planning on the recovery phase of training, just the workout/training phase. 

Recovery isn't about sitting on the couch with your feet up on the coffee table drinking beer and watching football all day/night long after a hard ride.  When we talk about recovery it should be "active" recovery.   I'll get to active recovery later.  Recovery should start at least 5 minutes before the end of your hard training ride.  It should consist of a nice cool down of high rpm low intensity pedaling.  This will help clear the lactate accumulation in the blood.  As soon as you get off the bike, you should ingest some carbohydrates and protein to fuel the muscles.  According to sports physiologist Joe Friel, in the first few minutes after getting off the bike, there is a potential for a 300% increase in glycogen resynthesis as compared to waiting 2 hrs.  Miss this window after your ride and your recovery may take more than 24 hrs. to get back in the saddle.  A good post-workout recovery drink is chocolate milk.  It's got the right amount of high glycemic carbohydrates and protein.  That combined with a high glycemic carbohydrate and high protein energy/protein bar should do the trick.  Within 2 hrs. after the ride, you want to eat a more substantial meal composed of lower glycemic carbohydrates and quality protein such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.  This meal will keep blood glucose and insulin levels high.  This post ride meal is not a time to be thinking of eating less and losing weight.  It should be a time to be thinking of feeding and repairing your damaged muscles.  And, don't forget to consume plenty of water that was lost sweating during your your hard training ride.  Even if you don't think you sweated very much during your ride (such as in the Winter months), your body loses a lot of fluid.

In addition to eating/drinking properly, many professional riders find that a massage is a highly effective way to restore muscles after a hard ride.  However, for the everyday amateur rider (like you and me) that is not practical nor feasible.  But, what is is stretching and using a foam roller.  Ten to fifteen minutes of stretching and rolling out your leg muscles on a foam roller goes a long way to a speedy recovery.  Don't forget to get plenty of sleep the night after your hard least 7 hrs.

So, what is "active" recovery?  Active recovery is just that- recovering while being active instead of passive.  Active recovery from the bike can be taking a walk, swimming or hiking as long as the intensity is low.  Active recovery can also include getting back on the bike as long as the effort/intensity is ridiculously low and slow.  Pretend you're riding with your grandmother of 80 yrs. in your flip flops.  You want a low intensity ride of no more than 20-30 minutes.  I find that I recover faster with "active" recovery vs. "passive" recovery..again, as long as the intensity is low and doesn't exceed 20-30 minutes.  I think most cyclists would agree with me.

Remember, your recovery is just as important, if not more important than your training ride/workout.
Power ON!  Coach Rob

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