Yeah, I said it. Recovery isn't a mystery - it's just something that everyone assumes they don't need. And being lazy, sitting around all day, isn't necessarily recovery. Below are my stupid easy tips for better recovery - that you need to stop avoiding.
1. Sleep: Yes, this is on every list when it comes to recovery. And yes, you are still pretending that 5-6 hours of sleep is going to be enough for your body to repair from normal life and your workouts - time to face it - 5-6 hours isn't nearly enough. I know in modern life there is this tendency to push the limits, to grab a little extra time, entertainment, or effort to put into each day - but all it does is leaves you running spent.
*My self-imposed rules are, 7hours only maintains, but doesn't really help me move forward. Anything over 8 I progress steadily and workouts are nailed every time. 9 hours is icing on the cake.
Here is the truth, if you are going to sacrifice money and time for your training and performance - why do you throw it away by not letting your body get stronger through sleep?
Quick Tip: For a week go to sleep the same times your kids do. If you don't have kids, that is 9-9:30.
2. Drink more Water: Water is important for everything, especially after a workout. Water is what your body uses to move waste around, to bring nutrients to damaged areas, to flush inflammation, even to burn fat as fuel (which leaves less waste behind then carbs).
Quick Tip: When you wake up you are not only in a fasted state, you are already dehydrated. 2 Glasses of water in the morning, a Glass at every meal, 2 glasses after each workout, and one before bed. If you are as active as you need to be in your training to build real performance, you are going to need to make getting water into your system a high priority.
3. Stretch: Again, I think the reason this one is skipped is because it is so obvious and easy to do - that it seems insignificant. But going through a stretching routine after every workout, or when you wake in the morning will significantly improve your body's recovery from efforts, and aid in releasing the tension in your body.
Quick tip: As a cyclist prioritize these areas: Hip Flexors, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Spine, Neck, Shoulders.
4. Carbs, Not Sugars: Okay, this one isn't as obvious, especially when you see professionals get done with a huge effort and throw back a Coke. But not all calories are of the same value, and throwing things into your body like Cokes, Ice Cream, Cherry Pies and the like in the "recovery window" isn't doing you any favorites. The residual stress on your system, and the processed elements/free radicals they bring into your body do their own damage. Keep your recovery carbs as clean as possible if RECOVERY is the goal.
Quick Tip: Bananas are fantastic for recovery, and easy to pack for Race Weekends, etc. Knock a couple back after your ride and you'll feel way better then a Coke and Snickers.
5. Periodically, ON YOUR FEET: The "waste pump" of your body is your muscles. Massage mimics this process with direct and specific pressure. But the mere act of walking around, standing at your desk, and movement will do more to flush soreness and fatigue out of your system then only laying around all the time. YES, there is the old adage of "Sit instead of Stand, Lay down instead of sitting." But that is reserved for racers in the midst of a Grand Tour who've taken it so far to the extreme being on their feet creates more fatigue. For 99% of us, staying moving, walking around, and active is going to create better recovery then laying on the couch.