Time to Read
Points of Interest
- Why is recovery necessary?
- Massage and foam roller
- Compression and elevation
- Recovery sessions
- Rest days
The key to progress in training of any sort is rest and recovery.
Why is recovery necessary?
Whether you're working to your first 100-mile ride, a marathon, or you want to smash your Crossfit class, the things you're doing around the training are just as important as the training itself.
When you train, you break down muscle fibres, and it's when you rest and recover that they grow back stronger.
Fortunately, the things you can do to promote your recovery are easy and cheap, and can be incorporated into your daily routine with ease. Here are the six essentials of recovery:
Just as you fuel your body before a workout, you need to refuel it as soon as you can afterwards!
For the 20 minutes after working out, there is a phase known as the ‘glycogen replenishment window'. In that period, your muscles are at their most receptive to nutrients, particularly carbohydrate – and so you want to get some glycogen on board as soon as you can! It's carbohydrate that your body burnt through when working out, and so this is the key thing to replace when your workout is complete. The other essential micronutrient to take on board in this 20 minute ‘window' is protein, as this forms the building blocks of your muscles and encourages their growth.
The typical recommendation is to intake approximately 50-60g carbohydrate and 20g protein in the ‘window'. The easiest and most effective way to do this is to use a special sports recovery drink. However, if you don't have that to hand, a large glass of chocolate milk, peanut butter on toast, or a bowl of cereal provides a similar effect.
Perhaps the most effective and easiest recovery tool is sleep. When you sleep, your body produces Human Growth Hormone, which promotes cellular repair and recovery. The more you can get the better!
After a particularly hard workout, particularly long endurance sessions, a short nap soon after the workout can do a huge amount to kick-start your recovery. However, it's essential that you limit this nap to around 20-60 minutes. Any longer and you risk compromising your night-time sleep, which is the priority.
As a general rule you should aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and if you can get more, go for it! After those super-tough endurance sessions, it's a good idea to get as much as rest as you can. Cyclists training for the Tour de France sleep 10-11 hours per night – and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us!
3) Massage and foam roller
These techniques serve to return tight, tired muscles to their normal state.
Muscles work through contraction and elongation, with the contraction creating the action of movement. After a tough session, these contractions from pedalling your bike, lifting a weight, or kicking your legs in a swim will leave you with tight, shortened muscles that haven't fully elongated again. The pressure applied to muscles with a foam roller or by a masseuse elongates the muscles and returns them to their resting state.
Using a foam roller or getting a massage also opens up your blood vessels and promotes blood flow, meaning that any metabolic byproducts from your workout are flushed out of the muscles, and key nutrients needed for repair are shuttled into them. This process of moving chemicals in and out of the muscles is key to reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
4) Compression and elevation
Compression clothing is a great way for all athletes to speed up their recovery, but particularly cyclists and runners.
After a tough run or bike ride, blood can pool in the legs. This blood is likely to be deoxygenated and full of lactic acid, and so it is important to transport it back to the heart quicker. If it's sitting in your legs it will just cause DOMS.
Compression socks or tights, such as KYMIRA SPORTS' Core or IR50 products, help encourage the return of blood towards the heart by essentially ‘squeezing' the blood vessels. This movement of blood will clear the legs of the toxins giving you aches and pains. By using KYMIRA's compression clothing, you will also benefit from our ground-breaking infrared technology. The fabrics in our clothing promote bloodflow, and encourage cellular repair – two of the key requirements for recovery.
One way of mimicking compression is simply to elevate your legs. While you're enjoying a bit of well-earned sofa time after your training, elevating your legs so your feet are higher than your hips will get blood moving back to the heart.
5) Recovery sessions
Runners, cyclists, and swimmers can benefit hugely from recovery sessions. These are short, easy runs, rides, or swims that are essentially done at the slowest pace you can manage.
A gentle workout will circulate blood around your body, clearing the muscles of chemicals that are causing DOMS, bringing them blood fresh with oxygen and nutrients. A recovery session will also help to relax tight and knotted muscles, returning them to a loose and supple state that is ready for the next session.
6) Rest Days
Like sleep, some of the most effective ways of recovering are the easiest.
You should ensure that you have at least two days of total rest per week, preferably not on consecutive days (for example, rest on Monday and Friday). It's essential to have days where you do as little as possible to give the body the opportunity to grow and rebuild. On these recovery days, do as little as you can get away with! Take the lift rather than the stairs, and avoid all those chores like mowing the lawn – and we all need an excuse to get out of doing those annoying jobs, right?
As well as giving your body a physical break, days off fire up your motivation to push yourself to give it your all in the next workout and get the best from yourself. If you try to train every day, eventually that desire will start to fizzle out and you'll stagnate.