15 Nov 2016


If you want to get stronger you’ve got to train – that much is self-evident. But if you want to get the full benefits from that training, it’s vital to recover properly. After all, you’re not getting fitter during a ride. That happens afterwards, as your body adapts and rebuilds.

Your ideal recovery window is fairly narrow. What you do in the first 30 minutes after a ride really counts – and can even dictate whether or not you recover from injuries.

Before you get to that point, however, note there are things you might be doing during training that are hurting your recovery. Run yourself too low on fuel or dehydrate yourself and recovery takes longer, so take care to avoid both. Failing to do a proper cool-down is a bad idea, too – spin easily for at least 10 minutes at the end of every ride.

Protein & carbs
Once the ride is over, the key is to take in both protein and carbohydrate, ideally within 20 minutes. Why? Because during this period your body is particularly receptive, and will very efficiently rebuild glycogen stores and repair muscle trauma if given the resources. There are plenty of effective recovery drinks available, but if you’re not keen – and if you can’t face solid food – then a banana blended with 500ml of milk works very well.

Better news is that the metabolism-speeding effects of caffeine mean that ordering an espresso is only going to boost your recovery time, as well as tasting delicious.

Stretch & elevate
Now is also the time to stretch out. Make sure you’ve warmed up if the ride was cold (taking a hot shower first is ideal), then run through stretches to your hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and illiotibial band – there are plenty of variations that work. Allowing these to tighten up over time can lead to reduced muscle function, pain and even injury.

Once you’ve done all this, and assuming you have the time and a place to do it, elevate your legs – aim for five minutes for every hour you rode. Lying on your back with your legs up against a wall reduces blood flow and pooling. Compression tights can also help (they must give you a genuinely good squeeze), as can a massage, though both can be very expensive.

It’s just possible you don’t have a masseur on standby(!), in which case it can help to invest in a foam roller. These can also be employed in certain tricky exercises, such as when working on the awkward-to-stretch illiotibial band.

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Beyond 30 minutes
If this all sounds like a lot to fit into 30 minutes, don’t panic. While it’s best to get straight into your recovery regime, the effects are heightened for anything up to 90 minutes. Do the right thing now, maximize your recovery, and you’ll be enjoying the benefits on your very next ride.