Recovery Made Easy

Bicycling Race Editor |

These recovery techniques will keep you strong during training camps, stage races and cycling tours.

I’ve been running cycling camps for more than 15 years, first for the U.S. national team, then pros, and now amateur racers and enthusiasts. No matter the group, there’s a constant: Someone digs too deep on Day One and runs out of steam before the final ride.

If you push to hard in the first few days, you will fatigue before the final day’s riding. But here’s how to get your fresh legs back.


This topic is covered a lot, because it’s important: Have a recovery drink immediately after the ride, followed by a balanced meal within an hour. Your goal is to consume 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (112.5 grams for a 75kg athlete) postride. No need to cram it all in right away. I’d rather you eat the full amount over four hours than stuff yourself in the first hour but get only two-thirds of what you need.


If you can snooze for even an hour, you’ll ride better tomorrow. It doesn’t restore like a full night’s sleep, but a nap does increase an athlete’s attention to detail for the remainder of the day. People who are dead on their feet don’t continue drinking and barely touch their dinner, and they go to bed without the fuel to recharge overnight.


It may seem counter intuitive to put your sore behind back on a saddle, but a 15- to 45-minute spin in the evening works miracles for recovery. Stay in a light gear and keep your cadence above 90 rpm; you should be able to talk easily the entire time. It seems that the old story about flushing lactic acid isn’t accurate, but increasing circulation does help move other metabolic waste out of your muscles and bring in more oxygenated blood and nutrients. This ride also helps keep your muscles supple and elongated, so you’ll be less stiff tomorrow.


A restorative rub works for some and not for others; if you’ve never had a massage, two days into a four-day tour is not the time to try it. If you do go for one, you want a sports-massage therapist or soigneur who understands athletes, ideally cyclists, and knows what you did today and plan to do tomorrow. A relaxing spa massage won’t help you ride better, and this is not the time for deep-tissue work.

When you take care of yourself, you can ride four or more days in a row and feel great; you may not even see a decrease in sustainable power or performance on climbs if your fitness is decent. And you can bring yourself back from the brink.

Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s personal coach. Visit for info on coaching, camps and performance testing.

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