From my experience, recovery doesn’t start the moment you step of the bike and head inside. There really isn’t a defined start or stop point when it comes to recovery. I try and get into the mindset that it’s a continual process that should be taken into consideration throughout the day, and even more so during especially long rides or multi-day events such as the Haute Route. Here aye a few pointers that I’ve founded useful to consider when it comes to optimising recovery. I hope they help.
1.On the bike
Use a smaller gear and maintain a higher cadence where possible and think about your gear changes in advance so that you can keep momentum and avoid repeated heavy loads on your legs that are needed just to get back on top of a larger gear.
Keep your legs turning over on the downhills (especially in the mountains) as opposed to freewheeling for the entire length of the descent. It may feel like you’re saving energy this way but just spinning your legs with a very low load will facilitate lactate removal from your muscles more quickly, putting yourself in better shape for the next climb.
Work to a nutrition strategy that ensures you never feel hungry or thirsty during the ride. Use the feed stations. Eat and drink more frequently than you may otherwise do on a one-day or shorter event. Between 60 and 90g of carbohydrate can be consumed efficiently in a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin/frustose, but don’t forget to try everything in advance to ensure it agrees with your system. Remember you’re fuelling to go the distance day-after-day so you want to try and finish each ride with glycogen stores that aren’t in the red. Topping up continuously throughout the ride will help to prevent this.
2. Post ride
As soon as you finish, and within 20 minutes of stepping off of the bike, start replenishing you stores and re-hydrating. The Haute Route events cater extremely well, so head over to the food tent as soon as possible before getting distracted with the post ride social (enjoy that over dinner). Hydration can be the main cause of cramp, headaches and lack of focus. Several days of intense effort especially in the heart can strip your electrolyte stores rapidly so keep fluid in-take regular and try using a good quality electrolyte drink. Try to keep post ride caffeinated coffee to a minimum; It will add to your dehydration levels and introduce a stimulant into your body when it needs to start winding down.
Choose an evening meal high in complex carbohydrates with a little extra salt to replenish lost stores, and while a glass of wine is good for relaxation, try not to go over the top on the alcohol as this will add to your dehydration (save it for the celebrations at the end of the week). Lastly, try to eat earlier rather than later, as you may find it harder to sleep after a good feed. I often go for a gentle walk after dinner to quietly think about the next stage.
4. Stretch & massage
I’ve got a routine that takes around 15 minutes that I try and do each day. As well as helping to relax the mind and body, a regular stretching routine will help keep muscles supple and less prone to injury and cramp. The Haute Route events have team of masseurs post-ride. Be sure to use them; a massage will relax you and work out the tension and toxins in your tired muscles. For tips on my own stretching routine visit mikecotty.co.uk
There’s a well-known saying that every cyclist should remind themselves of: “Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down and never stay awake when you can sleep”. Take every opportunity to stay off of your feet. I always use the hotel stars unless I’m thinking “recovery”, then it’s the lift every time. Elevate your legs at night to improve blood flow around your body so that your heart is under less stress trying to pump blood against gravity and try using compression socks before and after the ride to aid recovery and reduce water retention.
Undoubtedly the number one factor when it comes to recovery os the amount and quality of the sleep you get between rides. You can do everything else right but if you don’t get enough good sleep each night your recovery will be compromised. If possible try and take a short nap – 30 minutes to one hour of rest – after the ride and get to bed as early as you can. An your of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. Make sure that you give both your body and mind the care they need to come out refreshed and motivated to ride day-after-day. Always have ear plugs with you in case you find that you’re in a noisy environment or your best friend on the bike happens to be an elite level snorer.
Stay well, ride safe and most of all, enjoy the experience. The Haute Route is a life changer.