Ride Hard and Recover Right

After some years of riding, accomplishing several Double Centuries, making a few mistakes, and consulting a lot of information, I’ve learned a few basic rules that you can follow to optimize your recovery.

Tips for BWR Recovery

“It takes a least a week to feel normal again if you ride the BWR hard. The winners will finish around 7 hours of under but others will take 15 hours or more. It’s taxing on the body and requires a lot of extra pampering in the ensuing days after the big event. Light spinning and massage are always good after the event, as are hot tub sessions and plenty of hydration.” – Michael Marckx, founder of the Belgian Waffle Ride

After some years of riding, accomplishing several Double Centuries, making a few mistakes, and consulting a lot of information, I’ve learned a few basic rules that you can follow to optimize your recovery. The Cervelo Belgian Waffle Ride may be known as a beacon of suffering, but the organizers always provide plenty of options for optimal recovery during the post-ride festival at The Lost Abbey Brewery. Likewise, you may not be riding in the BWR or an event of its kind, but you can apply the same principles and rules after a similarly difficult ride to your at-home recovery routine.

Eat to Win, Win to Eat

Food and hydration is an essential part of recovery, so eat up. Consume lots of calories, electrolytes, and water, and be sure to reward yourself with a cold one! Beer is great right after a ride because it works as a more effective pain killer than acetaminophen and the carbohydrates and sugars from the beer will help to replenish glycogen in your muscles; if you are recovering from the Belgian Waffle Ride at The Lost Abbey, don’t miss out on their incredible craft beer.

Belgian Waffles
You can make up for the calories you lost/will lose with fresh Belgian Waffles. This freshly prepared plate is courtesy of Gear Grinder Grill.

You can also opt for a sugary drink like Coca Cola or chocolate milk. Although delicious, neither of these will reinvigorate your body like you would with electrolytes and a sports drink, so make sure you get something with sodium and potassium. One of the only times I enjoy soda is during or after a brutal ride and Coca-Cola can also be a great source of energy during your workout. The high sucrose content is broken down into both glucose and fructose and help to refill both muscle and liver glycogen, something a glucose-only option won’t do.

Sports Massage

A body massage directly after a rigorous ride is the best time to get the most for your muscles, it’s not for nothing that professional riders have a ‘soigneur’ to report to every day during the racing season. In Phil Gaimon’s new book “Ask a Pro”, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of (at least) once a week massage. He writes, “ Massage is crucial during a stage race. At home, I try to go once a week…Not sure if your therapist is good? Here’s how you can tell: if you enjoy it, it’s a bad sports massage. If you find yourself sweating and cringing in pain, that’s a keeper.” At the BWR expo you’ll find massage therapists on hand, but if you are looking for someone near you, Angie Masumastue in Fountain Valley at Sequoia Chiropractic Center is an excellent, and affordable, massage therapist for sports recovery.

Rest Your Legs, but Only a Couple Days

Stay off the bike for at most 2 days. Assuming you have no joint or muscle injury, a mellow spin is a great way to speed the overall recovery process. After a strenuous performance and an intense couple of hours, you might be inclined to take a break from your bike for a while. Most likely you made many gains while you were in the saddle, and you wouldn’t want to roll back those improvements by staying off the bike too long. Return to light pedaling soon with a short ride to maintain your gains. If you haven’t implemented a muscle strengthening workout into your training then you should consider starting one. The stronger your muscles are, the quicker they can recover.

Post Race Therapy Options

Frequent sauna use is shown to benefit memory disorders.

A great way to recover can be through thermotherapy. Temperature therapy is a relatively painless way to improve recovery in a big way. A session in the sauna has proven to be great for relief from muscle soreness; a sitting session totaling 15 minutes or less has been shown to eliminate lactic acids and toxins in the body released during a workout. Importantly, it also increases blood flow which in turn increases the rate at which oxygen is delivered to your body. Frequent sauna use has also been known to lower the dementia risk by 66% and Alzheimer’s risk by 65%(in men).

Granted, most of us do not have access to a sauna, in that case, you can use cold exposure to improve muscle recovery and function. The easiest and most affordable way to accomplish this for no money is with either cold water immersion or an ice bath. To draw yourself an ice bath, use a 2-gallon bucket of ice, sit in it for 2 minutes, jump out for 10, and then back in for another 2. If you don’t have access to an ice bath, a cold shower/bath on the lower extremities is a viable option, for about 2 minutes at 40°F. Cold exposure is well-known to be an extremely effective method to lower inflammation considerably.

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