Monday, 28 March 2011

Time to Recover.

I am having a bit of a blitz on the blog about fitness and getting fitter (all with the aim of beating those too cool for school single speeders). Let’s talk recovery, how long, when and why and let’s put it in simple terms that we can all understand.

If you are like me and an average Mambo then I doubt your fitness regime extended far beyond running for a train and the occasional knock about in the back garden with the kids (and this only gets harder as they get bigger and stronger and we just get older). To be honest it is just not fair, when they were 3 years old with their little legs, total lack of skill it was so easy to beat the kids a football or rugby. Now they are 13, 10 years stronger, fitter and 10 years more skilled, me I am just 10 years older and more creaky! But let us not dwell on the inequalities of life and focus instead on how to do our best at reversing this trend a little. This is why I want to concentrate just on recovery.

So what do I mean when I say recovery – well I don’t mean how long it takes to get your breath back after cycling up the pesky hill, what I am talking about is letting your body recover after a hard ride, taking a break from the bike and just letting your body repair. So what happens when you go for a very hard ride? Well basically you cause thousand of little tears in your muscles, you know the feeling (or you should) the aches and pains in your leg muscles in particular. You don’t actually get any fitter when you are on the hard ride, but your fitness increases during the period afterwards as the muscles repair – you know when this process is finished because  your body very kindly lets you know by not aching so much anymore. When the aching is over your body has not only finished repairing itself but the benefit of rest has then past because the healing (therefore the getting fitter) is over.

Now if you are anything like me, when you start off you will ignore this pain and go for a cycle the next day and so forth, but do this at your own peril because you are not giving the body time to repair the damage and you will not reap the rewards of the work you have done previously. Apart from anything else if you cycle again too soon then you are just going to be so sluggish and “tired” that you will not be anywhere near your real level and that person who just “Bagged a Bickerton” will be flying past you on their fold up bike with the little wheels or worse yet a granny on her Boris Bike. So just listen to your body, it is trying to tell you something when it hurts – it’s the same reason why it hurts when you put your hand in the fire (unless you are Superman at Niagara Falls).

The rule of getting older is that it is just going to take longer for those muscles to repair but once they have they will be fitter and stronger and they will need to be pushed that little bit harder next time to tear up so badly or they are going to recover a little bit faster next time. So how can we improve the recovery time? Well there are two ways – firstly you could get a nice massage, this will get the blood flowing around the damaged muscles. Or if you don’t have a compliant wife/husband/significant other or you get nervous that you going to walk in and ask for a massage at the wrong type of establishment, then another alternative is to go for a gentle bike ride, now I wouldn’t advise this if you really did over cook the last bike ride and are really aching, but if you are slightly stiff (maybe after a day or two break) then a gentle ride – say 60% or 70% effort will have the same effect as a massage – it till get the blood flowing around the muscles and loosen them up and at least in your mind you will feel like you are maintaining fitness.

Another thing that I found help massively was a set of stretches before and after a ride, nothing too serious but I found doing 3 – 5 minutes of stretches before and after helped reduce the recovery time by about half. Google stretches for more info!

There are other things you can do with your diet – but really you just need a sensible balanced diet (some carbohydrates and protein with the usual mix of fruit and vegetables) not unless you are getting very serious about this do you need to start really working and worrying about your food intake and supplements (I don’t know about you but those days for me have long since departed).

So the general rule here is

  • Listen to your body.
  • Give yourself time to recover – even though it feels like you are being lazy.
  • Don’t go flat out all the time – if you ache a little take a gentle ride if you can. If you ache a lot then take a day or two off.
  • Stretch before and after a ride.
  • Eat well.
  • Get the wife/husband/significant other to massage you (even if you haven’t been for a ride)!

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