Long Distance Training and Recovery Tips

26 April, 2017

I would never call myself a pro cyclists - I'm not even an athlete. I don't race, I'm no mechanic, and I certainly don't beat myself up about Garmin data. However, as a passionate cyclist I have a lot of experience on the road that has given me plenty of new things to learn and share. Like many a cyclist, I love to set goals to become faster, stronger, and enduring when it comes to cycling. As a growing roadie, I'm an absolute pro at finding the adventure in cycling when it comes to riding longer distances. Long distance rides are accessible to riders of all levels, even most recreational cyclists like myself can conquer a days 80 mile ride with the right planning and preparation. However, to do so, setting the right training goals is important to avoid burnout on the bike.

While I've been using the winter months to keep my fitness levels up, I've also learned how to train and recover to help aid my goals in longer distance cycling. Here are just a few non-pro tips to help you set up your goals on prepping for entering a race, joining a cycling club, or getting fit for that long distance adventure cycling trip you've been dreaming of.

Schedule
Ideally, you should plan to put the miles on your bike, however, when you're starting out, it's key to map out your training sessions and mile goals weekly. By planning your weekly training sessions, you can prioritize your schedule around training so you're not skipping out. Not everyone has the time for a regimented training schedule, however, when you're training for an event, it's key to not fall off the training wheels.

Training Plan
If you are new to cycling or long distance cycling, give yourself 8-12 weeks of training before an event. This would allow you to ease in without risking injury from riding hard and far too soon. Each week, plan your sessions and weekly long ride ride with an increase in mileage. For example, I do 2 indoor cycling sessions of 60 mins, 1 day of yoga, 2 days of recovery, and 1 day of outdoor road cycling with mileage (no more than 15% increased mileage each week). For a session (indoor/outdoor), write out your warm up time, specific exercises for strength building, sprint time, interval training, climbing time, recovery time and tape it to your bike, or join a indoor cycling class that will give you the proper sessions you need.
Hydration
Staying hydrated on and off your bike is key to keeping your muscles from cramping. Before, during, and after training, be sure to hydrate and follow up on replacing lost salts and minerals with a sports drink of electrolytes. During a training session or ride, keep water close by to keep hydrating so your replacing what you sweat out but don't consume too much or else you'll feel sick, trust me I'm guilty of this.

Nutrition
Before training, eat properly two hours before a session or ride. Certain foods will provide you with the fuel you'll need for a long distance ride like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, quinoa, fruits, and vegetables. Personally, I look forward to my pre-ride meal of oatmeal, almonds, banana and coffee. Two hours before a training session, I have a slice of gluten-free bread with peanut butter and apple so that I have enough to burn and hold onto before eating a full meal.

During a ride, keeping sufficiently fueled is critical to avoid bonking. That feeling of fuzzy head and legs giving up is no fun. Consider carrying snacks to refuel like energy bars, gels, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate (what snacks to carry blog post in que).

Thirty minutes post ride and training, have a small protein snack to replenish what you've burned. I'm a big fan of a peanut butter/jelly sandwiches. I usually pack these to carry in my jersey pockets when I need a pick me up. Two hours later, when prepping recovery food, I like to add some healthy protein and carbs to help me recover quickly in a full meal, a favorite of mine is chicken pesto pasta with broccoli. I don't eat dairy and gluten so I use products that are free of these properties and try to avoid them as much as possible, perhaps that's another post for the future.
Recover
Recovery is just as important as the training you do. This is probably my favor part of training. Aside from eating, another way I like to recover is by taking an Epsom salt bath after a ride. This helps with soreness by relaxing skeletal muscles by flushing lactic acid buildup for reparations.

Recovery nutrition is also just as important as the fuel you add before and after a ride. With training, muscle aches, inflammation, and muscle reparations are all just part of the course of becoming fitter on the bike. On my recovery days, eating well is key to replace nutrients and repair muscles. I'm a fan of smoothies, so an anti-inflammatory smoothie of berries, protein smoothies of peanut butter and banana, and veggie and fruit juices are all part of my recovery day regime. Like most cyclists, I'm a big fan of eating but we need to constantly remind ourselves to eat healthy and avoid heavy carb loading so that we are getting the proper recovery food our bodies need.

Rest, Elevate, Stretch, Sleep
When planning your training schedule, make sure to factor in some rest days. Those days are key to allowing your body ample time to adapt and repair. Try elevating your legs to help aid proper blood flow to aid recovery. These days I enjoy sitting on the couch with my legs elevated while binge watching a BBC period piece or reading a book.

Another way I love to spend a recovery day is practicing Restorative Yoga. The breathing and gentle stretching helps me to loosen up tight muscles and release pain I'm feeling in my hips, knees, and back. Yoga practice can also help aid in pushing oxygen to repair muscles and help you develop breathing techniques on the bike. It's also key to note that it can also help build mental relaxation practices that can help you push harder on those grinding rides, remembering to focus on breathing with each pedal on a climb.

Sleep of course can be sweet when your exhausted and we all know how important it is to restoring the mind and body. However, it is possible to develop sleep apnea when you've been training hard. This is something I've personally struggled with. Over training can cause sleeplessness and chronic fatigue, breaking down your immune system and plateauing your progress if you don't give yourself enough time to sleep. So make sure to listen to your body when you need to take time off, trust me on this one, I've learned the hard way.

When you stick to training and recovery, you'll begin to see the difference in your performance each week. You'll experience a tremendous sense of accomplishment and be glad you woke up early to be out on the bike until early evening. The flow of the experience will stick with you and you'll want to go further but just remember, it's about the fun in the saddle and cake after the ride, not the Garmin data.

images 1& 3 courtesy of stefan r.