9 Post-Ride Recovery Rituals
Check the Numbers
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While I'm not as crazy into power meters as some, keeping track of your calories, wattage, distance and miles per hour is a good way to gauge progress and to keep yourself motivated for the next ride. And the cool thing about the advancement of technology is, you don't need anything more than a smartphone and a few of the latest cycling apps to keep track.
Wash Your Bike
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This is a good habit to get into. Skip cleaning your bike after one ride and before you know it, you haven't cleaned it in months. Keeping your bike clean will make it last longer and keep the drive train running smooth. Right after a ride is the best time to take off the grime. After all, your bike needs to recover just as much as you do.
Drink a Shake
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After a long or hard ride, it is important to replenish what you've lost as soon as possible. Since food takes time to cook and many of us don't feel like eating right away, a recovery drink is a good option to get the carbohydrates and protein your body needs. Find one that has a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, which is good for rebuilding muscle. There are lots of different products on the market, so be sure to check the quality of the ingredients.
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Get into the habit of weighing yourself before and after your rides. However much weight you lose, try to replace it with water. For every pound you've lost, drink 16 ounces of water. On long rides in the summer, you'll be surprised how much you've managed to sweat out.
Get a Massage
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Massages aren't just for the pros. Getting a good rub down can increase blood flow and help to flush out lactic acid that builds in the muscles, allowing you to recover quicker. If you don't have the money to get one, you have two options: Convince your spouse that you'll return the favor or buy a foam roller, which can work just as well to release muscle tension if you know the right techniques.
Eat a Meal
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Try to eat as soon as you think your stomach can handle it. If you didn't go on a long ride, this probably isn't as crucial. For anything longer than three hours, you'll want to take in as many vitamins and minerals as possible to help speed along the recovery process.
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Experts can't agree whether stretching is good for the muscles after a workout. With that being said, being flexible is important for cyclists. The best time to stretch is immediately after a workout—not before. When the muscles are warm and fatigued, you'll get better results. Concentrate on stretching the lower back and hamstring muscles, which are especially important when riding in the drops or when using aero bars.
Take a Bath, With Ice
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Ice baths don't sound nice and they generally don't feel good either. But what they do accomplish is flushing out waste products by constricting blood vessels. It only takes 10 minutes, and you can think of it as mental-toughness training.
Use Your Ride as an Excuse to Take a Nap
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Professional cyclists sleep at least nine hours a night and often take a nap after a training ride. Your muscles are never quite as relaxed as they are while asleep, and napping can jump-start the healing process. Limit naps to no more than 30 minutes so it doesn't affect your sleep at night.