Welcome to our summer, outdoor fitness series. This month we’re featuring weekly exercises from THE BIG BOOK OF CYCLING FOR WOMEN by certified personal trainer, triathlete, and bestselling professional health and fitness author, Selene Yeager. No matter where you fall on the cycling spectrum, you know that great things happen when you toss your leg over a bike: freedom, empowerment, increased energy, stress release, better sleep, and let’s not forget a killer, fit body. This week’s focus: methods for rest and recovery.
If you’re training day in and day out, preparing for race day or a fitness goal, you’re bound to reach the plateau point. However, the secret to hitting that next point doesn’t necessarily lie in a new workout or a change in pace. In fact, it could all come down to the way you recover.
“There’s a saying in pro circles that the race is won in bed, which is to say all the training in the world will do you zero good if you don’t rest,” says Selene Yeager, professional mountain bike racer, Ironman triathlete, and author of The Big Book of Cycling for Women.
Moreover, it’s precisely the recovery method that you choose that will determine how “your body can repair and rebuild itself to be better and stronger than it was before,” she says.
If you take the time to rest and recover, you can actually come out of the gate stronger next time, repaired and rebuilt to face the conditions of a strenuous workout.
However, if you don’t know how to go about resting your body, here’s what Yeager recommends:
1. Rest, but do so actively
Yes, rest days are built into many training plans, but instead of taking a time out for a full 24 hours (or more), do an active recovery.
“Easy workouts — whether it’s spinning, jogging, swimming, or yoga class — get your blood circulating to flush out waste products, bring in fresh nutrient-rich blood, and reduce inflammation, so you’re ready for your next ride,” Yeager says.
There’s no need to take a full class if you don’t have time for that either. Simply take the long way home from the train, run after your kids, or ride your bike to work in the morning.
2. Refuel with a good snack
If you’ve finished an extra tough workout, make sure that your next step is to drink water and refuel properly. You’ll want a healthy mix of protein and carbs, and chocolate milk, Yeager notes, is a professional favorite.
Between improving and increasing circulation and reducing soreness post-workout, massages are crucial to productive recovery. But more than that, “numerous studies have shown that massage lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is released during hard efforts,” Yeager notes.
And if you can’t head to a massage parlor to get your recovery, fear not. Grab a foam roller and give yourself a massage, right at home.
4. Go cold
You’ve seen it in film and shows, and there’s a reason why cold water baths are so beneficial to recovery. The ice-cold water speeds your rest by reducing inflammation and decreasing soreness.
5. Compress it all
“Research suggests that compression tights can help reduce blood lactate levels and speed recovery,” Yeager says. And to maximize the benefits, consider wearing them during your workout, starting with compression socks and working your way up to full tights.
6. Sleep, sleep and sleep
Sleep is the key to proper health. It can help your physical, mental, and emotional state, so it’s no surprise that it’s also crucial to your recovery.
“Sleep is essential for optimal recovery and performance,” Yeager says. “For one, too little makes you sick and slow.”
On the flipside, the proper amount and quality of sleep — while also practicing good sleep hygiene — can actually help you jump back into your workouts faster, without skipping a beat.
Fitness routines courtesy of Rodale, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2015 from The Big Book of Cycling for Women by Selene Yeager.
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