5 Quick Recovery Tricks to Get You Back on the Bike

Easy ways to bounce back from a hard ride as a stronger and faster cyclist.

Selene Yeager |

Easy ways to bounce back from a hard ride as a stronger and faster cyclist. – By Selene Yeager

1. Cool Down

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Take a few minutes to spin easy after you’ve throttled your legs with a hard ride. The blood vessels in your legs expand while you’re hammering away: Stop abruptly, and the blood just pools down there. This not only makes you lightheaded, but also limits your ability to get fresh nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood in and metabolic waste out—two keys to muscle repair and recovery.

2. Rub Down

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You probably don’t travel with a massage therapist, but you can travel to races and events with a massage stick or mini foam roller—or even a couple of tennis balls and socks. Whatever works, bring it and use it. Massaging your legs helps push out the fluid carrying the waste products of muscle breakdown, and encourages fresh blood to flow in and help rebuild. Research shows that massage following exercise can improve circulation up to 72 hours later. It also breaks up muscle adhesions (knots) that can form from overuse, so your muscles work more smoothly.

3. Slip on the Socks

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The research on how much compression wear improves performance is still fairly equivocal, but studies indicate it can help reduce swelling, fatigue, and muscle soreness after intense exercise. If nothing else, slip on some compression socks. The soleus (calf muscle) is called your second heart because it shepherds blood back to your chest. Compression socks accelerate that process, which in turn improves blood oxygen levels and subsequent recovery.

4. Skip the Antioxidants

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People used to believe that dosing up on antioxidants like Vitamins C and E could stave off free-radical damage done during hard exercise and accelerate healing. Today, we know the opposite is true: Research shows that during the acute recovery period immediately following a hard workout, antioxidant supplements can counteract the beneficial effects of exercise. By squelching free radicals before your body can react and adapt to them, you keep your muscles from recovering appropriately. In head-to-head comparisons of muscle damage and cell rupture between supplement users and those who go without, those who popped antioxidants appeared to experience more muscle injury and slower recovery. Some studies have found taking C and E after exercise can also counteract the insulin-sensitizing effects of exercise, which is a fancy way of saying your muscles won’t be able to pull in the glycogen and nutrients they need to restock and repair.

5. Carb Up

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Hard rides blow out your carbohydrate stores. You body is most primed to replenish them within about 30 minutes of a vigorous workout. Get in a carb-rich snack within that window. Plus, that protein you’re also eating speeds up glycogen restocking as well as muscle repair. A nut butter sandwich or some Greek yogurt and fruit are a couple ideal post-ride recovery foods.

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