Not unlike your training, your warm-up needs to be tailored to meet the specific demands of the event you are about to participate in (USA Cycling Staff, 57). Shorter and more intense events require more thorough and often longer warm-ups, and vice versa for longer events.
For more information on the subject, or sample warm-up routines for various events, please see my article on warm-ups. For specific warm-up routines, please ask your coach or contact one our associates at email@example.com.
Nutrition and Hydration During the Race
During your event, attention to proper nutritional practices is key and can be the difference between first place and not finishing the race. For events shorter than 90 minutes, a carbohydrate beverage can be used, ideally of complex carbohydrate and some electrolytes to assist the body in its attempt to maintain a healthy level of hydration, energy and electrolyte balance (Born, 12).
For events over 90 minutes, research has shown that using a sports beverage containing a small amount of protein (preferably soy protein) helps eliminate the excess and performance-robbing ammonia produced by animal proteins, keep the insulin response even and provide a longer-lasting source of energy (Born, 40).
Longer events also allow you to eat solid foods if you prefer. Just make sure to choose easy-to-digest sources whose nutritional make-up is conducive to performance and taste.
Hydration during your event is key, and the general rule of thumb is to take in 20 to 40 ounces of water every hour (Clark & Russell, 529). This is typically?one to?two bottles, and will vary depending on climate conditions.
In events less than an hour in duration, plain water is sufficient. But in those lasting more than an hour, a sports drink containing up to an 8 percent?carbohydrate should used to replenish glycogen (Clark & Russell, 529).
These drinks should be complex, contain a reasonable balance of electrolytes but should also be cold and taste good whenever possible. Drinks that are enjoyable to sip are more likely to be used completely during a race, and this is crucial to proper hydration.
More is not necessarily better, so be careful not to overdo it, as too much fluid can affect performance just as much as not enough.
Once again, the act of doing a good cool-down is a crucial part of the race equation, leading to increased performance on the days to follow and allowing the body to return to a state of homeostasis. This gives the body a chance to clear all of the metabolic waste accumulated during the event (USA Cycling Staff, 58).
After a race or hard training session, a 10- to 30-minute cool-down should be performed to flush the legs of any metabolic waste that has accumulated.
Stopping exercise immediately leads to the pooling of blood in the legs, leading to very slow and sore legs later on (USA Cycling Staff, 58). The amount of time spent cooling down varies depending on how long and hard your event was.
For less strenuous events, a shorter cool-down is sufficient, but for extremely physically stressful races or workouts, a cool-down toward the longer end of the recommended range will be more effective. The intensity should be at an active-recovery pace of less than 60 percent?of lactate threshold power or heart rate, or less than 40 percent?of Vo2 max (USA Cycling Staff, 58).
Just because you do not see your favorite pro or local Cat 1 doing these things does not mean that you are going to have the same results. What works for one athlete might not work for the other, and oftentimes these riders can warm into races and not practice the same level of attention to detail in these practices because they are riding with people whose fitness is far below theirs.
Just watch what they do when it comes time for an important race. Mark my words, as their approach becomes much more structured. You never see Lance skipping the finer details in his approach, so why should you? Cooling down properly can be the difference between stiff, sore legs and snappy, fresh legs the next day. You make the choice!
Recovery Nutrition and Techniques
Another vital component to multi-day performance is paying attention to the way you assist the body in its recovery process through nutrition and other practices. Making sure to imbibe a recovery drink containing 1.5 g/kg of your body weight within 30 minutes after the event is crucial to replacing the glycogen (carbohydrate) burned during your event (Dunford, 43).
Postponing carbohydrate intake by a mere 2 hours can reduce muscle glycogen by up to 60 percent?(Clark & Russell 524).
Post-race recovery drinks also helps re-hydrate the athlete and should include some protein as well to help repair any damaged muscle tissue. Athletes should attempt to take in a pint per pound of body weight lost during their event or training session to adequately re-hydrate (Dunford, 41).
Typically a 1:4 protein-to-carbohydrate ratio is recommended for recovery, to help maximize utilization and absorption of the protein and carbohydrates (Dunford, 40).
Carbohydrates should be high-glycemic (simple), unlike the pre-race meal, so that the insulin response is rapid, helping the body to assimilate as much carbohydrate as quickly as possible.
Research suggests this may also be a good time to include antioxidant supplements or antioxidant-containing food to help absorb any free radicals produced during the metabolization of fat, carbohydrate and/or protein during your event (Colgan, 238).
A balanced meal should be eaten within one to two hours after your recovery drink/meal is taken in to adequately and fully replenish your fuel stores and repair tissue damage.
Additionally, recovery massage should be performed lightly and toward the heart to help the body's own recovery process. Such activity, along with static stretching (as long as it is not performed right away so as not to damage already-stressed muscle tissue) helps move some of the metabolic waste toward the heart and kidneys to be filtered and excreted.
This will help eliminate or reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and fatigue, maintain optimal muscle length, neuromuscular efficiency and function, leading to improved performance (Clark & Russell, 237).
Do not do any deep-tissue work, as you only want to help the body recover and do not want to induce any additional stress to tired, overworked muscles.
What you do between events will have a dramatic effect on how you perform from day to day. Naps, staying off your feet and out of the sun, and keeping the stress level down will dramatically improve your energy level when it comes time to race again.
Getting a good night's sleep, whenever possible, and heading to bed at a decent time in order to allow the body to go through its vital repair and regeneration cycles is critical (Colgan, 73). When in doubt, take it easy, and focus your energies on the task at hand.
With proper training, nutrition, psychology and attention to the little things that can make such a difference in endurance sports racing, you should have all of your bases covered and be as set up for success as possible.
Our hope is that the information presented here will help you to get the very most out of your next multi-day event. These principles can also be applied to your regular events; however, in multi-day events it is even more critical.
The resources provided at the end of this article are the tip of the iceberg of information that is currently available on the subjects of endurance training and sports nutrition today.
Jeb Stewart, M.S., C.S.C.S., is a USA Cycling Elite and USA Triathlon Level 1 coach and is certified by the ACSM, NSCA and NASM. He has a master's in exercise science and health promotion and is co-owner and head coach of Endurofit, LLC. For more information, visit www.endurofit.com or contact Jeb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-230-2900.
Born, Steve. "The Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success." Endurance Sports Marketing, 2001.
Clark, Michael A. & Russell, Allen M. "Optimum Performance Training for the Performance Enhancement Specialist." NASM, 2002.
Colgan, Dr. Michael. "Optimum Sports Nutrition." Library of Congress, 1993.
Dunford, Marie, PDH, RD. "Advanced Exercise Nutrition." Human Kinetics, 2002.
USA Cycling Staff. "2002 USA Cycling Expert Coaching Manual." USA Cycling Inc., 2002.