Quick Post-Century Recovery Techniques
For most people, riding a century is a landmark endeavor that takes consistent training and thoughtful preparation. However, your attention to training detail doesn’t stop once your ride is over.
For most people, riding a century is a landmark endeavor that takes consistent training and thoughtful preparation. However, your attention to training detail doesn’t stop once your ride is over; efficient recovery from a century requires planning equal to that needed to complete the ride in the first place. The arduous nature of repeating any physical action for over five hours is sure to cause some post-exercise fatigue and muscle soreness. In addition, there are likely to be nutritional repercussions such as depleted carbohydrate stores and dehydration. Taking time to address these issues will speed your recovery and get you feeling strong and energetic again sooner.
There are a number of ways to reduce post-exercise soreness and accelerate the recovery process, such as recovery rides, massage, stretching, nutrition, and appropriate use of pain relievers. Let’s take a quick look at each:
Recovery rides can take place on the days following a century ride. These rides should be done at a low intensity with very light resistance. Cadence should be slightly lower than normal (usually around 75-85 rpms), and duration should be anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes. It is best to do these rides on flat terrain, or you can even do them on an indoor trainer or spin bike in a gym. If you encounter hills, gear down or slow your cadence to keep the pedal pressure light. The key for recovery rides is to allow the muscle to become warm and loose, without building fatigue. This will stimulate blood flow, help in muscle repair, and decrease the perception of muscle soreness.
Massage has been demonstrated to be effective in improving well-being after a long, hard ride. While research in this area is inconclusive, subjects consistently report decreased levels of fatigue when treated with massage following exercise. Possible explanations include improved sleep patterns, heightened endorphin and serotonin levels, and decreased levels of stress hormones following treatment. While the positive impact of massage may be more psychological than physical, if it makes you feel better, then take advantage of it. You can also perform self massage on reachable parts of your body, such as your legs, to aid in relaxation.
Stretching can help to relax muscles and decrease post-exercise soreness. Post-exercise stretching should be light for the first 24-48 hours following a century. Research indicates that stretching with excessive force after an intense workout is likely to add to muscle damage and delay the recovery process, so be gentle. Based on current research, the best time to stretch in order to reduce post-exercise soreness is after a brief warmup and before your actual workout (so, say, a mile or two into your recovery ride). Hold each stretch for approximately 20 seconds, performing three sets for each major muscle group. Stretching to increase flexibility should be done at the end of a recovery ride or a moderate intensity workout, when the muscles are warm but not overly fatigued.
Nutrition following a century ride can dramatically affect recovery. Even the best pre-exercise and during-exercise sports nutrition plans will result in a dramatic net decrease