Multi-day rides are tough on mind and body, and avoiding injury when cycling is paramount. Training and preparation beforehand, fueling yourself adequately during, and knowing how to pace yourself will all help, but equally crucial is the action you take after you finish for the day.
Stephen Garvey, cycling injury specialist with Six Physio, talked us through the four key steps you should take to keep the blood flowing, prevent muscles seizing up and aid your recovery so you’re ready to ride again the next day.
Set massage targets
If you can, get a massage each evening to help muscle recovery
When glycogen stores start to deplete and the lactic acid starts to build, the first area this will be noticed is in the lower limbs. A good rubdown will expel the side effects. A massage needs to focus on the powerhouse muscles such as the rectus femoris, hip flexors such as the psoas and the gluteals.
Particular attention paid to the semisplenius capitis (upper and back part of the neck) and erector spinae (three columns of muscle extending down the vertebral column) can ease those aching anti-gravity muscles.
Stretch out your recovery
Sir Bradley Wiggins knows the value of a good stretch
A muscle is bound by two fixed points of contact. Post-ride stretching reduces the sensitivity of perceived muscle tightness in the range a muscle functions.
Phil Burt, lead physio to Team Sky and GB Cycling Team advises four post-ride stretches within an hour of finishing your ride.
They are the Bulgarian squat, the Indian knot, modified hurdler stretch and foam-rolling the iliotibial band – ITB (Google ’em). A single quality 30-second stretch and 60 seconds of foam rolling is effective in alleviating aches.
Switch the shower
Switching between hot and cold water on your legs can be a simple but effective way of stimulating muscle-nourishing blood flow – but reconsider braving the ice bath. New research suggests we should leave the ice in the freezer and enjoy a soak in a hot bath for 15-20mins instead.
Ice baths have been shown to reduce the gains from training, by reducing the inflammatory process and muscle soreness, and it has been proven that these chemical processes are fundamental in performance gains.
Once you have finished a ride, your active recovery starts straight away. At the end of a long ride you should aim for a 10-minute cooldown cycle on flat terrain or even on a turbo trainer working in heart rate zone 1 (for information on heart rate zones see British Cycling). Later in the evening you may even want to try an easy cycle or go for a walk or run to encourage the body to remove metabolic waste products from your muscles.
If you have a multi-day event coming up, why not check out hints and tips on how to approach it from pro cyclist Stephen Walsh?