Everyone knows that in order to perform well, you must train hard and train right. What many people forget is that part of the train hard, train right formula is RECOVERY. The best laid plan isn’t complete without the proper rest and recovery. It should be part of your routine monthly, weekly and daily. Without attention to recovery, you’ll hit the wall sooner than later and all that hard work you’ve put into your training will come to naught.
If your plan is to race a full season, then the best approach is to sit down with a coach to talk about the season as a whole so you can plan your peaks as well as your recovery weeks. Over the years, one thing I have heard over and over again is how little consideration people give recovery days because they think they’ll lose fitness. Rest days ARE training days. They are as important or more than the lung busting, leg burning intervals that everyone thinks are the key to going fast. Even within day-to-day training rest days are important. Do not underestimate the power of complete days off the bike and easy spinning, even if it feels like you’re going slower than your grandma. Remember that quality is more important that quantity, and this includes rest days as well.
You’ve heard it before. Drink water to stay hydrated. It’s no secret. But the question during training or racing is water or drink mix? It depends. Under normal conditions water is adequate. However, when you’ve got a long day on the bike planned or the mercury has risen, ingesting calories through a drink is a good idea. I’m not an expert on prescribing hydration formulas, so I will refer you to the respected scientists who have formulated the “Secret Drink Mix” to get the information you need. I recommend reading the article on Bike Radar to get the low down on the science behind this drink mix. Bottom line…replace the fluid that was lost during exercise.
Don’t be afraid to eat carbohydrates! Carbs are the main source of fuel during exercise. You must replace what you use. It’s pretty easy. Although carbohydrates are most important, it is a combination of carbs and protein (approx a 4:1 ratio of carbs to proten) that will ensure you get what you need for proper recovery. Sure, there are formulas out there that suggest a certain amount of carbs and protein per body weight, but if you can consume any sort of healthy food (I like foods like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, chocolate milk, trail mix, and fruit) within the first 30-60 min after exercise, you are on the right track.
WARM UP/COOL DOWN
For shorter and harder races, you need more warm up. If it’s the type of race that will start off hard and fast, then you need to do a few hard efforts in warm up. After a race, especially one that made you dig deep, you’ll feel better the next day if you allow yourself 15-20 minutes to cool down by spinning at a slow speed, high cadence.
Stretching is not an activity that is in many cyclists’ training programs, but it helps your body stay supple and flexible. When I am home I try to get regular massages (~1/week minimum) to help work out the kinks and soreness. A good massage therapist can help you iron out small problems, help you stretch and help you relax after a hard day of training or racing. Regular massage is not cheap, but it can help you stay on top of any problems you might have or even treat issues before they become a problem.
Naps are my all time favorite thing to do. After a hard day on the bike, I look forward to a little sleepy time on the couch. They help me relax, recover and put my mind at ease for a little while. Most importantly, though, is to get adequate sleep nightly to best prepare mentally and physically for the stresses that lie ahead.