Unless you are a top professional athlete where training and racing comprise your workday, you most likely don’t have the luxury of coming home after training rides and taking an hour-long nap while having a nutritionist or personal chef prepare your meals. This is the dream, but very few people get to live it. Most of us have to rush off to work or school after an early morning training session with our bodies struggling to catch up, leaving us feeling drained, sluggish, sore and un-productive.
I’m an early riser who used to struggle at work after big rides or at the end of a training block. I would drink cup after cup of coffee just to keep myself going. Realizing that I wasn’t recovering properly and not training at my potential, I started to experiment with different ways I could improve my recovery while at work. After years of trial and error, I’ve found the secret to maintaining post-ride productivity lies in following the right combination of recovery steps. I’ve outlined a few of my most basic and trusted recovery techniques that help me succeed in the workplace as well as out on the road.
1. Stay hydrated. This is common sense for most athletes after a hard ride, but it’s an easy thing to forget while you’re working. Meetings, an excessive work load or a lack of access are all barriers to keeping yourself hydrated. I make sure to drink an entire 12 oz. water bottle every hour. It’s an integral part of my routine to get up on the hour to refill my bottle, which you’ll always see on my desk reminding me to keep drinking. If it’s not possible to keep a bottle with you at your desk, make sure that during designated breaks you take time to hydrate.
2. Stay off your feet. This is very job dependent, but no matter what you are doing a rule of thumb is to always try to be sitting, even if it is just for a minute because every little bit can help. Since you can only train as hard or as well as you recover from the previous day’s workout, it’s important to allow your legs to rest as much as possible after training. Staying off your feet allows your muscles to relax, which gives them valuable time to rebuild and become stronger. If you must be on your feet to complete your job, try to make sure you sit during your break and even put your feet up to get them elevated. Elevating your feet increases blood flow and helps reduce recovery time. If you are on your feet a lot, wear a good pair of insoles or running shoes with extra support and cushioning. The bottom line here is to stay off your feet as much as you can.
3. Compression. Whether you’re sitting or standing, wearing compression tights or socks is another great way to help with recovery at work. The idea behind compression apparel is that it increases blood flow back to the heart where it can be re-oxygenated, thus increasing recovery time by flushing lactic acid. Recovery tights or socks are nice because they can be worn under normal clothes. They are also great while traveling. I always wear some form of compression garment on long trips to races. If you take your training seriously, I highly recommend investing in a pair of recovery tights and socks.
4. Eat frequently and eat properly. Think of your body as a machine that needs fuel to run. Not only is your body trying to recover, it’s also performing the tasks required to do your job successfully. My body performs optimally when I down a recovery drink within 30 minutes after I ride and eat every 2-4 hours, which means a lot of snacking. Remembering to eat throughout the day can be difficult, but planning your meals will help keep you on schedule. Equally important as how often you eat is what you eat. Make sure that a complete protein source is part of every meal and that you are eating plenty of fruits and veggies. A fast and easy post training meal I use is scrambled egg whites and vegetables. If making a meal at work is simply out of the question, I recommend seeking other alternatives that don’t require any cooking. Almond butter on rice cakes, the “green” juice sold at grocery stores or protein/energy bars are a few dependable options. Most importantly though is to treat your body right by nourishing it. You place huge demands on it through your training and racing, so take care of it off the bike and the results will come.
5. Easy spin post work. If you commute on your bike to and from work then this takes care of it, but if not, I find that an easy spin on the trainer after work does wonders. It helps loosen the legs up in a way that “flushes” the system and gets them ready for the next day’s workout. Make this ride super easy at a high cadence and low resistance. The easy spin is meant to feel relaxing, almost like a massage.
These are just a few simple recovery tips that can keep you training at a high level during the work week. Put these tips to use and hopefully you’ll see the same amazing results I experienced with my productivity, energy level and mood. And remember to work hard and keep spinning!