Most obsessive and competitive runners and cyclists already know the importance of proper recovery following a workout or ride. For those of you who want to know some strategies to get the most out of yourself and build strength and fitness, keep reading!
Rest and recovery are overlooked aspects of training that need to be a lot higher on the totem pole. It may be argued it’s the most important part. The gains aren’t made on the trail or the street, It’s true, no pain, no gain but there’s no need to for us to shorten the old saying to just “no gain”. The deeper you dig, whether it’s an endurance event or a ripping 5k, there’s a lot of damage that occurs at the cellular level. Muscle fibers are tearing, lactic acid is accumulating and connective tissue is subject to thousands of repetitions and all the load bearing structures have just taken a pounding. The workout or event is over and all you want to do is crack a cold drink and find a lawn chair. I argue that this is where your real work begins. I remember years ago, immediately following a grueling mtb endurance event in Michaux State forest in PA, the guy who won was offered a beer by the organizer and he waved it off and said “no, I have to recover first”. I made a mental note of this because everyone else was laying on their cars and on the ground, lifeless and dead from the all day sufferfest and it seemed only appropriate to get lit and talk about the day. The proper way to finish an event or ride is not to sit on your butt and drink Keystone Ice. First, drink water and second, within 20 minutes you need to replace the appropriate amount of protein and carbohydrates. You have a short window, a “glycogen window” when your body absorbs nutrition efficiently and nothing gets stored as fat. If you wait too long, you miss the opportunity to replenish muscle energy and your body will go into a sort of starvation mode and most likely experience additional muscle fatigue and soreness. If you went deep, replace some protein and carbs immediately after the event. Do it again within 2 hours. rinse and repeat until you feel satisfied. Never skip this step, it will keep your metabolism high, your muscles will have all the fuel they need to rebuild and you will be a much happier, nicer person for the rest of the day.
Included are some of the apparatus that are must haves for preparation and recovery. The Swiss Ball, or aka the Physio Ball is my all time favorite tool for tuning my skeleton and muscles. I couldn’t live without one. This magical ball is like having a personal masseuse/chiropractor at your service 24/7. The first stretch you should do is lay on your back, reach your arms out over your head and allow your spine to stretch and decompress, let your head hang and give your neck some relief. It feels amazing. You can search millions of ways to use a physio ball, the most versatile and valuable tool for any athlete.
Pre/Post Workout: Must Haves For Every Runner and Cyclist
The next – and possibly equally as important tool for recovery is the foam roll. This can be an acquired taste. It tends to be painful at first, especially if you have allowed muscle soreness to get deep into the layers, using a foam roll on overcooked legs can be a real screamer. When used regularly, your muscles adapt to it. For runners, the calf muscles and front of the shins will really benefit. For cyclists, obviously the quads and hamstrings, upper portion of the IT band, glutes and even lower back, but do so carefully. Foam rollers can provide quick relief for tired and sore muscles from standing all day, working out simply to shake out lingering fatigue. They come in various densities and it’s a good idea to have a couple options at home. Sometimes the softer foam is more appropriate because the dense foam can be intense. It’s best to choose a large open floor area, use a yoga mat if you want, try to use your full body weight on muscle groups – but build up to it. Always listen to your body, if it’s too painful, ease up. Always push yourself through discomfort, try to be tough enough to complete all your reps and stay aware of the potential to cause injury. 10 – 20 reps per muscle group are common recommendations. After your body acclimates to foam rolls, go for more reps. A dense foam roll used regularly, daily, will add tone, strengthen and flush muscles and loosen connective tissue.
The next amazing and life saving device is commonly called “The Stick”. It’s a stiff yet flexible bar with grips and plastic rollers that do a similar job as a foam roll, but on a more specific and smaller area. The original stick had been copied many times, due to it’s effectiveness and simplicity. The little rollers will glide along muscle tissues and separate and squeeze trigger points and adhesions. You’ll know right where they are, believe that! This device allows you to control the amount of pressure to apply, as well as the length of the rolling action. Just like foam rolls, at first it will be painful but with regular use you’ll experience the benefits of releasing triggers and unlocking strength and flexibility. Fascia can develop knots and tighten, causing small areas to become raised and focal points of pain and tension. The Stick will expose their location and with gentle yet firm pressure during the rolling motion, these areas will release their tension over time and increase the strength, flexibility and efficiency throughout. It is important to consider the more intense and more often you workout and compete, the greater the need for active recovery and rest, along with stretching and a sound nutrition plan.
This is obvious. Floors are cold and dirty. A good yoga mat invites you to roll around on the floor and do stuff.
Runners and Cyclists love losing weight. They would weigh less than a chicken or a cat if they could. A pair of curling weights and a Physio Ball open up a myriad of ways to build arm strength, back and shoulder strength. Google it. Think about the days of bad weather or maybe you are sidelined with a sore knee. If you run and ride, chances are you skip the upper body. It’s not recommended. Stay balanced, stay strong and strengthen the entire body. It’s basic sh*t.
The half foam roll. These are often more expensive than the full rounds. They are handy for the spine and neck, two crucial skeletal systems that take a beating from running and cycling. Lay on the round side lengthwise, meaning flat side on the floor, round side up. position your lower sacrum a few inches from the end, lay back until the foam roll is supporting your entire spine and head. Feel the vertebrae resting and aligning, loosening the front of the chest while your arms and shoulders roll back in gravity. Stretch your arms back and open the ribs and shoulders.
Sneaky half foam roll hack for lower back muscle relief.. Decompress the lower spine.. Reposition the foam roll flat side up. The round side now rests on the floor. position the lower sacrum on the flat side, low on the back, below the first vertebrae. Lay back, bring hands above the head, stretch the arms all the way back and lay like this for 60 seconds. This lifts the pelvis off the floor about 4 inches and promotes a gentle tug on the muscles and lower vertebrae and relieves pressure on the lumbar discs, allowing fluid to flow and expand the discs from a compressed state. The body needs to be moved into different positions to maintain flexibility. Yoga mats lead you to yoga classes, great places to restore and revitalize your body.