Cycling - Recovery: The Key to Better Performance

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Cycling – Recovery

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It’s said that recovery is as important as training and this is very true.

The time spent off the bike recovering is as vital to any rider as the time spent training. If you miss the opportunity to repair muscle damage, you can be left with more than just aching legs.

Recovery has increasingly become a focus of science in sport. We treat so many patients that have over trained and haven’t recovered properly. Their form gets worse and it becomes a vicious circle – it is so easy to think that because of a dip in form, you must train harder. This is the mistake. This method can quite easily cause or aggravate an injury.

Muscles don’t behave normally when they’re tired. If you’re tired, you often over compensate other areas to make up for other muscles. This is when you can aggravate or even cause damage elsewhere.

The reality is, fitting training around an ordinary lifestyle makes you naturally more susceptible to injury. Often we don’t allow correct recovery times and methods because we have other responsibilities. The chances are, if you are a competitive cyclist with a busy social/work lifestyle, you will have already experienced more than one symptom of “over-training”.

There are many tricks that we can use along the way, in an attempt to help recover.

Nutrition is key and can have a direct effect on muscle soreness. Here are a list of useful nutritional tips, all aimed at helping recovery:

  • Cherry juice has a high antioxidant potency, along with its anti-inflammatory properties, making it beneficial. It has also been found to have notable benefits on muscle damage. It’s been shown to reduce muscle pain and reduce loss of strength over several days of intensive training.
  • Beetroot juice can boost your stamina and VO2max owing to high levels of nitrate. Some are even calling it the new EPO.
  • Watermelon is high is glycogen replenishment, something your muscles cells rely heavy on after exercise. Its high water content will also rehydrate you and replenish electrolytes.
  • Fish contains oils that can have a notable effect on recovery. The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are able to increase the oxygen intake of damaged muscles and generally lower fatigue.
  • While professional supplements are more likely to provide the correct ratios of carbohydrates and proteins, standard supermarket milk has often been found to be similarly effective.
  • Fresh tropical fruits such as pineapples, passion fruits and mangos are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potency to reduce muscle damage after a session.
  • Tablets containing supplementary antioxidants and vitamins can help the recovery process when used alongside a healthy diet. The antioxidants can help counter the muscle damaging effects of free radicals produced during exercise.

Sleep is also another successful way to recover, with Olympic silver medallist, Rob Hayles, admitting to sleeping well over 12 hours a night. Many Professional cyclists are now looking toward sleep for marginal gains. Team Sky opt to take all their athletes’ beds on tour with them when they compete.

For the average person, we lead busy lives. Therefore, it is important to think less about fitting training around work, and more about fitting life around recovery. If you have a busy life, train less.

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