Updated: Oct 27, 2021
I know every cyclist loves the infamous coffee shop ride, and if the main goal of your ride is to get coffee, then by all means please, don't ditch your ride. No one should go without coffee! What I want to talk about is the ride cyclists do every Friday because we are supposed to recover.
Over the years, I have been guilty as any coach for prescribing these rides. The longer I coached however, the more I began to see the danger in these rides. Either my athletes were secretly trying to sneak in extra training by going too hard, too long, or they were just engaging in meaningless pedaling around.
As a coach, I am constantly asking myself the why, or purpose behind the training I prescribe. Recently when I did a coaching internship at Altis, a training facility that coaches world class track and field athletes, they really opened my eyes on how to create meaningful purpose behind an active recovery session. These athletes didn't just do " slow jogging" for active recovery. Their focus was on the complete restoration of the system. The approach focused on deep recovery and exercises that could help undo any harm that occurred to the body in training while also preventing future harm. This included such things as band traction for joint health, mobility work, and breathe training.
In cycling, we spend hours upon hours in a compromised postural position, creating tight hip flexors, rounded shoulders and pressure on the lumbar spine. It seems then like a contraindication to expose my athletes to the same systematic position that is causing all these imbalances on a day they are supposed to recover. Instead I revised my training to focus on doing something that still touched on the important components of recovery. This included removal of harmful metabolites, but in a way that restored function to the body.
Here are my three favorite alternatives for recovery:
1. Pool workout-
In the pool, the pressure of the water increases as the water gets deeper, so when you stand in deep water, the blood in your feet rises causing the blood to be circulated upwards. This creates a natural pump similar to compression garments, facilitating circulation. It helps flush waste from the muscles, kinda like a massage in the water. What the pressure also does is cause the heart to pump more blood, making it a good cardio workout even though there is less stress on the muscles and other soft tissue. There are a number of different exercises to do in the pool, from jogging to drills, to swimming. You can't go wrong here.
2. Regeneration Circuit-
This is a great way to restore your imbalances while getting your heart rate high enough to circulate the blood and speed up recovery. Focus should be on a mix of mobility for the areas that get tightened and shortened while cycling. These include areas such as the hip flexors, quads and chest area. Add that to a mix of stability and activation for the posterior areas that are in a compromised elongated position such as, back, glutes and hamstrings. This type of workout will not only aid in recovery, it will help prevent injuries and extend the length of your cycling career.
This is my favorite because it's the ultimate recovery tool. It helps switch the nervous system to a parasympathetic state. It also helps to flush the lymphatic system. Mix this in at least once a month for maximum benefit.
Once you discover there can be better and more creative modalities to achieve the recovery state, you will be feeling better than ever. Try them out and discover what works for you!