The Art of the Recovery Ride
Time to Read
Points of Interest
- Keep it short
- Stay away from inclines
- Add 'Spinups'
- Recovery Nutrition
- What to wear
A recovery ride should literally and metaphorically be easy, yet a lot of athletes get it wrong.
The purpose of a recovery ride is to flush out any toxins lingering in the muscles after a hard workout, and to keep the muscles supple prior to that all-important next training session.
Below is how to perfect your recovery ride and give your body the best chance it has at repairing the damage done to it in the previous session, and rebuilding itself to be stronger.
Shorter is sweeter
A recovery ride should place the least stress possible on your system in order to allow it to repair and recover. As such, the ride should be short, 90 minutes at most - but even 30 minutes should be enough. This gives your muscles the time required to loosen and relax, and for your heart rate to rise (but not too much, see below!) to a sufficient level to help clear any metabolic by-products.
Easier than you thought possible
If you’re riding on the road, you want a nice flat route that avoids any serious hills. It’s not always that easy to ride ‘gently’ up a gradient, and if you find yourself battling a hill and upping your heart rate, the ride will be squandered. Similarly, it’s best to do recovery rides on your own – riding with friends or a club runs the risk of things getting competitive, the pace rising, and you failing to get any proper ‘recovery’ from the session.
If you’re riding with a heart rate monitor or power meter, you need to keep strictly to zone one – and remember that’s below 55% of your threshold power, or below 68% of your threshold heart rate. That’s seriously easy; it should feel as if you’re hardly pushing the pedals. A lot of athletes fall into the trap of making their recovery rides too hard – even straying into zone two is too hard for ‘recovery’. If you start pushing too hard, you’re both failing to recover, and not really training either, so it’s just a waste of your all-too-precious energy.
One great way to ensure you don’t stray over zone one is to keep the bike in the small chainring, which forces you to spin super-easily. A really enjoyable way to keep the ride easy and prevent you from pushing your system too hard is to indulge yourself in a café stop. This will break up the ride, lower your heart rate, and most importantly, give you the chance to get coffee and cake!
It can be beneficial to include some short ‘spinups’ in your ride. This involves a 10 second burst of super-high cadence, but super-low power. Do not think of it as a sprint!
Doing these encourages your body to release human growth hormone, which helps your muscles recover and repair from the ride before. This short burst of muscle activation also helps them relax. You coax the muscles gently back into action, and doing this means the fibres loosen off – which helps ease out any DOMS that you may be feeling.
If you choose to incorporate spinups into your ride, make sure you allow around 5 minutes recovery between each, and only do 4-5 in each ride.
Many people neglect to fuel properly before and after their recovery rides. Just because the ride is short and easy, don’t forget why you’re performing the session – to help your body recover. Essential to physical recovery and re-development is fuel, and so keeping those tanks full is a must.
Make sure you go into the ride having eaten 2-3 hours prior, and ensure that meal was well balanced with whole grain carbohydrates, quality protein sources such as fish, meat or eggs, and plenty of fruit or veg. And likewise, when the ride is done, be sure to keep filling the tanks with a high protein snack such as a recovery shake or bar.
Keep it fun – or don’t bother!
A recovery ride shouldn’t feel a chore. If the weather is bad, if you’re feeling really tired, are busy, or have lots of priorities with work and family, just don’t do it. In your weekly training plan, a recovery ride is a bonus, but it’s certainly not the be-all-and-end-all.
Sometimes, it’s better to use a recovery day to totally decompress, and take your mind off the bike. Not thinking about training at all is good for the mind, and means you’ll go into the next block of training with renewed enthusiasm and commitment.
If you’re not riding though, you need to remember it’s a recovery day, so don’t go cross training, doing strenuous DIY, or playing football with the kids!
Wear KYMIRA® SPORT
The Infrared technology in our fabrics has been proven to boost blood oxygenation and circulation, speeding lactic acid breakdown and increasing the rate of removal of waste products from your muscles. This applies not just to lactic acid developed during the current workout, but those prior – so wearing our kit will help flush out those nasties from the hard session you did the day before.
Our infrared fabrics also increase the rate of cellular repair and replication, meaning that you’ll be repairing your muscles, ready to train hard in your next session.
To sum up
Before you even get on the bike, consider whether you really have the time or motivation. If either of those are lacking, sit on the sofa – it can be just as good for you.
If you do ride:
- Eat well before
- Wear KYMIRA® Sport's cycle range
- Ride 30 minutes to a café in zone one with 3 spinups on the way
- Have a coffee!
- Ride 30 minutes home in zone one and include a couple more spinups
- Have a protein-rich snack when you’re home
- Take it easy for the rest of the day.