Written by: Chelsea Smith | CyclingHacker.com
Long bike rides can increase your endurance while helping you burn some calories. Unfortunately, these rides can also leave you drained mentally and physically, especially if it's your first long ride. Therefore, post-ride recovery is mandatory to help you prepare for your next training session or race. In fact, all avid cyclists can confirm that the amount of time spent off your bikes recovering is as crucial as the time spent biking.
After all, if you don't take the necessary steps to speed up muscle recovery, you will increase the risk of burnout and injuries. And this will limit your participation in your next competition or workout session. And an injury can rule you out of lots of competitions or work out sessions for a very long time. So here are a few effective tips for speeding up the muscle recovery process after biking.
How to Speed up the Muscle Recovery Process
1) Cool Down
After finishing your workout session or race, you shouldn't stop immediately; instead, you should continue cycling slowly for about five minutes. During the race, your blood vessels tend to expand; therefore, stopping abruptly will affect blood circulation. In addition, stopping abruptly will affect your body's ability to pump the metabolic waste out and fresh blood in, leaving you lightheaded.
Remember, fresh blood and the removal of metabolic waste is essential, so instead of stopping at the finish line, you should continue cycling slowly for a few minutes.
2) Continue Moving Even After Getting off Your Bike
When the body stops moving after a long race, all the muscles can tighten up and end up becoming sore and stiff. So after your cooling down sessions, you should get off your bike and start walking. After all, the muscles need to continue contracting even after you have finished, so instead of sitting down and calling it a day, you should walk around for a few minutes. This is mandatory, especially for cyclists who want an all-rounder bike that can be used to commute the day after a long ride.
3) Drink Up
Dehydration can actually slow down the recovery process since the blood pressure and volume will decrease. And when the pressure drops, your muscles won't receive the nutrients and oxygen needed to recover quickly. So don't forget to hydrate your body after your race. You can drink an electrolyte drink, plain water, or a protein-type drink like chocolate milk. Sports beverages can help, but drink them in moderation.
4) Eat Some Protein
Protein is essential for the recovery process, so to kick-start the recovery process, you should consume lots of protein. Start with a high-protein snack after the workout or race ends and while cooling down. Make sure you eat high-protein foods like nuts, fish, chicken, and beef as soon as you get home. The protein will promote muscle recovery and repair while decreasing muscle damage.
5) Carb Up
Long and tough workouts tend to use up all your stored carbohydrate. So, after consuming a high-protein snack, you may want to eat a proper food rich in carbs to help replenish your glycogen stores within half an hour of finishing your workout. Remember, the protein you have consumed will help with glycogen restocking.
6) Wear Your Compression Socks
The calf muscle (soleus) is referred to as the second heart since its responsible for pumping blood back to your chest region; therefore, wearing compression wear is highly recommended. Compression socks can reduce swelling, muscle fatigue, and soreness after a long race or ride. Compression socks can increase the blood recirculation process resulting in improved oxygen levels. And this will speed up the muscle recovery process.
7) Get a Massage
You probably won't travel with your massage therapist to the venue of the race, but you can carry a mini foam roller, socks, tennis ball, or massage stick to the racing events. So make sure you use whichever massaging tool you carry. After all, massaging your legs after an intense workout can help rebuild the ruptured muscles, increase fresh blood flow to your legs and push the fluid carrying metabolic waste to the blood, where it will be transported to the kidney. Massage can improve blood circulation and also break up muscle knots that normally form after an intense workout.
Another thing you can try is taking a contrast shower, which means alternating between cold and hot water. The contrast can create a unique pumping mechanism that improves blood circulation.
8) Stretch Your Muscles After Getting Back Home
Rest is essential for muscle recovery, but you should try and keep off your bed or couch a bit longer once you get home and stretch. After all, stretching is one of the best methods for dealing with muscle tightness and even loosens up your body after a very long ride. Stretching will keep the body limber and ready for your next race and prevent stiffness. It will lower the risk of injuries and increase flexibility, mobility and help the muscle relax. Stretching is key to muscle recovery; therefore, you can loosen your aching muscle and stiff joints using your foam roller after you have finished stretching.
9) Reset Your Body With Plenty of Rest
The most vital part of muscle recovery is resting after your intense workout. Sleeping does more than prepare you for your next race; it allows the muscles more time to recover after your race and lowers stress hormone levels in your body. So try and sleep for about 7 hours at night and get a half an hour power nap during the day.
After getting more than enough rest, you should avoid going hard on your next workout; in fact, you should avoid doing an intense workout the next day. Remember, your body is still recovering, and going hard on your next workout, even if it's running or swimming, can derail the recovery process. But this doesn't mean that you should sleep on the couch the whole day. Instead, you should try and move around; you can even go for a leisure ride the following day to help prevent muscle stiffness. Low-impact workouts can help loosen your muscles and accelerate the muscle recovery process.