“How do you like to recover after training hard or an event?,” is the lone question that caused an avalanche of deeply thoughtful and unique responses. Before I go any further, let me give you some back history.
Prior to sitting down to write this post, I asked this question on Slack, a messaging platform our team uses to communicate. You see, we have a lot of cyclists and triathletes who work at TrainerRoad. From our developers, to our marketing folks to our support agents — many of the people who own these roles are cyclists who have been loving the sport long before they started working here. This is one of the reasons we believe we’ve been able to make such a great product; our only focus from day one has been to build a product that we, as diehard cyclists and triathletes, want to use ourselves.
All that said, when it comes to getting insight on any training topic, it’s an understatement to say I don’t have to look too far. That was surely the case with this blog post topic … which got me thinking.
Instead of following our traditional blog post format, I wanted to switch things up a bit and see how a post like this would hit with you guys, our blog readers. The main difference you’ll find with this post is that it’s less objective, i.e. a whole lot more personal, than our others.
Every subhead below will introduce you to one of our TrainerRoad team members. After brief spiel about who they are and why they’re awesome, I’ll share their personal recovery tips, thoughts and stories. While this post is more subjective than our other blog content, I hope you still dig it and, most importantly, take away lot of great information.
Okay, let’s dive in already!
Jonathan Lee, PR Director
Cycling credentials: Cat I cross-country mountain bike racer and Level II USAC coach
Why Jon’s awesome: For starters, Jon’s the host of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. He’s also a Yeti-sponsored athlete, the 2015 Nevada State Champion and placed 4th at XC National championship last year.
Jon’s thoughts on recovery: The first thing I do after a race is refill on electrolytes. I have one cold bottle mixed to spec and one watered down mix to sip on afterward. Many times my body craves plain water, but I make sure to drink an electrolyte mix that won’t cause GI distress. Skratch Labs electrolyte mix is the best I’ve found for this compromise. I like to take in a recovery drink while drinking my electrolyte mix. I’ve tried a lot of different recovery mixes, but haven’t settled on one like I have with Skratch’s electrolyte mix.
If I know it’s going to be a hot race, I’ll keep wet towels in a cooler and have an umbrella handy just in case shade is scarce. I also make myself strictly adhere to the maxim “don’t stand if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down.”
I try to treat post-race recovery with the same importance and focus that I use for the race itself. I also try to make it a point to have somebody else drive home, if possible, so I can keep my legs up higher than my heart. This carries on when I’m flying or when I get home or back to the hotel. If it’s a stage race, I place an even greater emphasis on all of these points.
For dinner after a race, I place a premium on taking in enough carbohydrates, instead of my traditional habit of avoiding grains. I try to plan my meal so I have something like rice with it. After Sea Otter last year, I learned this lesson the hard way.
After a successful first day of racing, I made a dumb choice to have an Seared Ahi salad for dinner. The portions were big, but other than the Ahi, there was nothing calorie dense or beneficial about the meal. The next day’s road race started out great, and after 90 minutes I had completely bonked. I limped in with zero energy, knowing that I didn’t take in a proper recovery meal the night before. After that race, I had a stir fry for dinner that gave me plenty of sustenance for the next day. The final day was a success!
Chad Timmerman, Head Coach & Co-founder
Cycling credentials: Chad has 10 years of coaching experience as a Level I USA certified Cycling and Triathlon coach. He’s also a multi-time State Champion and races competitively in nearly every discipline.
Why Chad’s awesome: Chad’s the creator behind more than 80+ structured training plans, 800+ workouts and the cycling course Train Smart, Get Fast. He also helped co-found TrainerRoad (no biggie).
Coach Chad’s thoughts on recovery: After most long training blocks that lead up an important race, I’ll take a few days off and do something active, but entirely outside the realm of cycling. This season it’s been skiing, and this week it’s been home remodeling. Gutting walls down to the studs in a 90-year-old house is hugely physical, but anything that feels like effort suffices.
I employed this off-the-bike hiatus tactic, which usually takes place 10 days before important events and lasts 3-5 days, leading up to Cascade the year I lost the GC (overall standings) by 17 seconds. Although I trained very specifically and diligently, I lost serious steam just prior to the final couple weeks leading into the race, so I decided not to train for an entire work week. I just ran my indoor cycling studios from the sidelines, then resumed riding in a very taper-like manner (high-intensity, short-duration, ample recovery between efforts and workouts) for the remaining five days leading up to the stage race. I never felt better in my life and my racing showed it.
A large majority of the recovery information that’s out there is unnecessary for most working athletes, but it’s interesting from a coaching perspective. Eat well, sleep plenty, train consistently and appropriately — that’s about what you need to know.
If you really want to get more analytical with your recovery, you can track your recovery metrics with a tool like RestWise. They use metrics like your waking bpm, SPO2, body weight, sleep quality, energy level, mood, appetite, etc; also include body fat (via Tanita scale) and blood sugar to predict a Recovery Score. I’ve gotten to point where I can usually predict my Recovery Score before RestWise calculates it, which furthers my belief that you can’t go wrong with sticking to the basics of recovery.
Dave Christenson, Filmmaker
Cycling credentials: On the road, Dave’s a nationally competitive P/1/2 racer who regularly guest rides for international teams in UCI races around the world. Earlier in his racing career, he raced at the pro level in Asia and Italy. Now he mostly races masters with the Herbalife p/b Marc Pro—Nature’s Bakery elite cycling team.
Why Dave’s awesome: Dave shot and edited The Chase, our short film about the nationally ranked time trialist Justin Rossi.
Dave’s thoughts on recovery: Immediately after a race or hard ride I drink an Herbalife h24 recovery drink. After that I eat once I feel like I can keep something down. A bit later I’ll stretch and use the Marc Pro for 1-2 hours, which helps move old blood out and bring new blood in. What I’ve found with the Marc Pro is that it’s a consistency thing — it works better the more you use it. I’ve been using it religiously 5 days a week for the last four months and I feel like my legs are more fresh when I need them to be.
Another thing I’m really consistent about is getting massages. Every 1-2 weeks I’ll get one to help with recovery. Sleeping enough hours each night I’ve also found to be super important and helpful. Stretching is another huge thing. Seriously. I didn’t learn the importance of stretching after you race or train until later in my cycling career.
Adam Salvo, Engineer
Cycling credentials: Adam started doing triathlon in 2009 — he averages about 3/year. Under his belt, he has has a couple AG wins at local Olympic Distance events, including a 2nd overall win. His best 1/2 IM time was 4:34:48 (Racine) and best IM time was 10:29:17 (Wisconsin).
Why Adam’s awesome: Salvo is a machine. He’s data driven in every way and as objective as they come. What’s more, he has his pilot’s license! Following an Ironman in 2010, he found himself with a lot of free time so, naturally, he picked up flying as hobby.
Adam’s thoughts on recovery: After 5-6 years of training and racing, I really started to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to listen to my body. Could I push through that workout, or did I need to call it quits? Because I know what -20 TSB and + 6 TSB feels like, I can make better use of the PMC chart in TrainingPeaks.
Since starting triathlon in 2009, I’ve kept with the same basic structure for recovery: 3 weeks on, 1 week off. However, I’ve made one change since I started doing TrainerRoad plans this year for the first time — I’m now doing a little more during my rest weeks.
Post race, I’m a big fan of making the most of my money and fueling up at the race’s feed tent. Sometimes I’ll get a massage because they feel nice, but it’s definitely not something I actively seek out. Depending on the type of event I just completed, the following day I’ll either take the day off or have an easy day.
When I complete an Olympic Distance, for example, the next day I’ll have an easy day then on day two I’ll start to ramp things back up. For longer events, like a Half Ironman, the day after I’ll take off completely, then the following day after that I’ll do something like an easy ride on the bike. For a full Ironman, because these events have been end-of-season races for me, I’ll typically do whatever I want for the rest of September, which means taking a break from structured training for a bit. That kind of extended break is usually all kinds of good for both my mental and physical recovery.
Trevor DeRuisé, Online & Forum Community Manager
Cycling credentials: Trevor is a professional mountain bike racer for KTM Bikes Factory Racing and a Level III USA certified coach.
What makes Trevor awesome: This guy is over 5.0 w/kg when he’s not even training, so it’s safe to say he’s a beast. He also got 8th place at the 2015 SingleTrack 6 stage race.
Trevor’s thoughts on recovery: Like anything with endurance sports, I don’t think recovery is so much a “post-workout technique,” but rather a long-term approach to building health and fitness. Compression socks, recovery drinks, hydration, etc. are all great after a hard workout, but if that workout completely ruined you because you came into it unprepared in some capacity, none of those things are going to do much.
Your nutrition, how well you stay hydrated, the quality of rest you’re getting each night and your strength and flexibility all need to be incorporated. When one of those key elements is missing from your recovery routine, the effectiveness of your recovery kind of goes out the window. So, I really think you have to commit to it all if you truly want to feel the difference after a big workout or race.
Have a question for one of the cyclists who contributed to this post? Share it below.
Listen to Certified Cycling Coaches Discuss Recovery Methods
Recovery is one topic we covered in episode 25 of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. Listen to the episode’s full recording below to hear this and other questions from cyclists get answered by our certified cycling coaches.
TrainerRoad’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast is dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. It gives you the chance to get answers to your cycling and triathlon training questions from USAC certified coaches Chad Timmerman, Jonathan Lee and special guests. Learn more about other topics we covered in the latest episode with our resources below:
- How to salvage a stage race
- How to mix vacation with training
- How to measure body fat
- How to fix knee pain for cyclists
- Stretching and physical therapy for cyclists
- How to train for a Half-IRONMAN
- Is overtraining a myth?
- What to do if you’re feeling tired during training
- Do low-inertia trainers cause knee pain?
- Should I retake my FTP test?
- How to use indoor training for triathlon
If you have a question that you’d like to ask Coach Chad, submit your question here. We’ll do our best to answer them on the next episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast.