Have you ever watched (or let’s be honest.. slept through) the Tour de France and walked away wondering, ‘how on earth do they ride that hard and that fast, day in, day out for 23 days straight’?
I have often just put it down to them being freaks of nature, but there is method in their madness. The recovery protocols for elite cyclists (and most other elhletes) are absolutely integral to their sustained performance over a long period of time.
Now not many of us train or perform to the extent these guys do, but I’d hazard a guess a lot of us back up day after day for crossfit, gym sessions, training and games, runs, rides or whatever it is that keeps you fit. Here are 5 of the best things you can do to recover and perform at your best session after session.
The body does some amazing things whilst you sleep. It repairs muscle, restores energy and refreshes the brain. A good pre-sleep routine can help you get the most out of these processes and feel less fatigued or sore the following day.
Try and maintain a regular sleep and wake time as well as a good pre-sleep routine. Avoid any stimulants (caffeine, energy drinks etc.) 30-60 mins before you plan on going to bed.
This includes visual stimulants such as TV and phones. Keep the room dark and quiet and if you are away travelling, taking your own pillow will help provide a familiar sleeping environment.
And sleeping tablets are a big no-no. A 6 hour natural sleep is hands down better than a 10 hour tablet-induced sleep!
There is some good emerging evidence that compression garments help to improve venous return (i.e. improve the removal of lactic acid and muscle by-products of hard exercise) and reduce swelling in the limbs.
They are quite practical and can be worn to bed overnight if tolerated. The combined effect is an accelerated recovery rate of your tired muscles.
This one is almost a no-brainer. There is very little concrete evidence that says stretching prior to sport will prevent injury but there is a stack of it advocating for it reducing muscle stiffness and improving joint function post-workout. The same goes for massage and its effect on tissue extensibility.
Going back to the Tour de France, most riders will have an immediate stretch session followed by a 15-30 minute massage. As well as the physical benefits there are plenty of mental benefits.
Massage provides relaxation and a time to ‘switch off’. It’s not feasible to treat yourself to a massage after every workout but using self massage devices like foam rollers and spikey balls can give similar benefits in the short term, and a regular massage routine (ideally once a fortnight) is vital to minimise your soreness and improve your performance.
Cold Water Immersion
Here’s one that’s not for the faint hearted. This is best utilised after massage and stretching and if possible in a bath tub or pool. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t have to be freezing cold or involve ice, optimal temperature is actually between 12-20oC.
The process involves submerging as much of your body in the water for 10-20minutes (can be broken up into shorter segments).
If a pool is not available alternating hot and cold in the shower (change each minute for 5-10mins) has similar effects.
Always finish on cold! The benefits of cold water immersion range from cooling body temperature, increasing lactic acid removal and reducing swelling.
The body needs fuel to burn and it needs the right fuel for what you’re asking it to do. So it makes sense that feeding it rubbish will give you a sub-par performance. The Australian Institute of Sport identifies 3 key nutritional components to recovery.
These are refuelling carbohydrate stores, replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat and manufacturing new protein for tissue repair and adaptation.
In the immediate post exercise period it is best to consume a carbohydrate rich snack or meal that provides 1-1.2 g of carbohydrate per kg body weight within the first hour of finishing. For a more in-depth look at how this works see this article
We love helping people perform at their best and battle on through the season with as minimal risk of injury and fatigue as possible. If you want to chat to us more about this or are in need of that massage come and see us at Terrace Physio Plus or call us on 4983-1765.
By Chris Stoddard