We've written about the benefits of stretching many times. A lot of cyclists feel stretching is not needed, but that is one of cycling's biggest myths.
An ongoing stretching routine will keep the muscles smooth and supple and eliminate tension of the large muscle groups while riding, especially in a more aerodynamic position. It can eliminate a lot of potential stiffness, especially the mornings after long, hard training rides or races.
Not much to say here, we just wish we could do it on a daily basis. The only caution is to avoid deep tissue massage the day before a big race or hard effort. Use it more to aid recovery after these efforts.
Hanging the Legs
Elevating the legs above the heart (e.g., on a wall) helps eliminate byproducts from the legs, which is one of the primary causes of swelling and extended fatigue.
Active Recovery Bursts
Usually, we refer to two different types of recovery. Rest is completely off the bike and active recovery has the athlete doing an easy spin the day after hard efforts. An additional element to add to the easy spin is high cadence sprints or bursts in a low gear, such as 39x16, for five to eight minutes.
Keep them below eight minutes in an easier gear to avoid producing excess lactic accumulation. This workout can help eliminate that heavy-leg feeling we always have. Think about it as cleaning out the pipes.
Adapt Recovery to Training
Recovering from hard efforts takes various amounts of times for different athletes. A lot depends on the intensity of the efforts, current level of fitness and time of the season. However long it takes, keep one thing in mind: make sure you are recovered before trying to do your next hard workout.
Always apply the rule of better over-rested than over-trained. When in doubt, take another day of recovery. If you don't, you may begin to dig a hole of fatigue that is difficult to get out of. And remember--with everyone looking for anything different to help improve their fitness, it still remains that the basics like recovery enable optimal performance.