With the 2017 edition of the Le Tour de France having recently kicked off, I can’t help but think back to some of the strategies I used to survive nearly a month of racing. After hard races or hard training sessions, it is absolutely crucial to give your body the chance to recover and repair muscle damage. The tricky part is finding the balance between recovery that is needed and just being lazy. Your body will always tell you when it wants more rest, but sometimes you have to just push through it.
What can be done to speed up recovery? Here are some tips.
9 Ways to Recover Fast
Eating: Give your body enough vitamins and minerals. They play a crucial role in multiple chemical reactions. Check out these 8 Snacks to Maximize Recovery.
Stretching: This classic old-school method works. Stretch slowly and carefully after exercise to help loosen your muscles and make them more pliable.
Massage: My favorite was the sports massage elite riders would get at training camps or races. Nothing made me feel better. I swear I could feel the lactic acid leaving my muscles. The calm and quiet environment also helped me relax and recover from the stress of a hard race. If getting a massage isn’t feasible, give yourself one by using a roller stick or foam roller. We would typically use the roller stick during the bus transfer back to the hotel after races, but you can also roll out your muscles while lying in bed. With a foam roller, you need to be on the floor. Both devices are great and compliment each other. The latter is often more painful, but it is absolutely necessary to release any knots so your muscles can relax and recover.
Hydration: I can’t emphasize this enough. Your body depends on water. It needs water to cool itself down while sweating, to keep your metabolism humming, to repair your muscles, and to break down nutrients so your body can absorb them better. Your body even needs water to process vitamin C. Learn how much water your body needs each day and then make sure you get it.
Compression: These are the things doctors send patients home wearing after certain surgeries. Only now the socks and tights you can buy are much more attractive. They can help increase circulation, which may help muscles recover faster.
Sweating: In the cold winter months, I always loved to go into the hot sauna after some hard training sessions. I could feel my muscles relaxing and getting soft. Like a massage, it also relaxes you mentally, too. It always made me happy to be in the sauna. Maybe your gym has one? If not, draw yourself a warm bath and just soak.
Chilling: During hot summer months, an ice bath can kickstart recovery. It can be very effective, but can also be pretty hard to organize right after a bike race. I mean really, who has a 50 gallon water basin in their car or on the team bus, right? A refreshing alternative may be to dip your legs in a cold lake or river at the end of a hard training ride. Or fill up your tub with water and ice when you get home.
Riding: Much easier to do are slow rides referred to as “active recovery.” They’re usually done the Monday after a hard race and last between 45 minutes and 2 hours. Any longer and your body will fatigue even more, and that is clearly something you don’t want, right?
Distraction: I sometimes found that the best recovery for me was to simply lay on my bed, read a book and forget all about races and training, and watts and heart rate. Reading shuts my brain off from cycling and gives me peace of mind. After 200 km in the Tour de France the last thing I wanted was to stress about stretching, foam rollers, or ice baths. So please my friends, do whatever makes you happy.
Now you have some options for making your recovery quicker and more efficient. Choose your favorites and build them into your routine. And remember: Moderation is key.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.