How To Spend A Rest Day

25 May, 2017

While spending all day out on the bike is how most of us would rather spend our days outdoors, having a rest day from long days in the saddle is rather a necessary part of recovering. Plenty of average cyclists like myself will spend less time on a bike than an active cyclist training for an event, yet, even we also risk burnout, illness, and injury too. With rest days, there is also a factor of being active in recovery rather just sitting on the couch with legs up. In active recovery you are doing very light exercises to helping aid your body in flushing out metabolic waste to help in aid in faster recovery. Non-active recovery strategies like whole days off are beneficial too but like most cyclists, we are always finding active ways to feel good on and off the bike. Here are just a few ways how you can get the most out of spending an active or non-active rest day.

Just a note, I am not a medical expert or fitness coach, just a girl who loves riding bikes that has found her way through the training, natural nutrition, and recovery world to help aid her own performance. These ideas are based on my own experience, don't require a lot of money, and are practiced on a regular basis in my own training schedule. What works for me may not work for you but I'm sure you will enjoy some.
Epsom Salt Bath
One of my favorite recovery activities after a long ride is a hot Epsom salt bath. This is a simple and effective way to relax worked muscles while decreasing inflammation. It's also a good way to increase blood magnesium and prevent bloating from water retention. As a result, epsom baths can increase the rate of recovery and reduce muscle and joint pain from the inflammation response. You can boost up your recovery bath game by adding some lavender and almond oil for both it's soothing/smoothing effect and healing properties too. Relax and enjoy this one, just don't fall asleep.

My other favorite time spent recovering is eating, so much eating. While there are recovery quick fixes in protein powders, recovery drinks, gels, vitamins etc. it's easy to get nutrients from real food too. To get the most out of recovery eating it's best to eat one hour post ride with four parts carbohydrates and one part protein. This helps in replacing glycogen stores and protein for muscle repair. Another recovery favorite of mine is a smoothie made of banana, berries, almond milk, and greek yogurt for antioxidants, protein, fiber, potassium, and insulin replacement. As much as I want my muscles to recover, I also want to look out for my overall health and sometimes I have to choose the burger over a leafy veggie salad to feel like a normal human being again so eat what makes you feel good in the end but balance it out too. Also, hydration is part of nutrition recovery and is a no brainer to avoid cramping and dehydration.
Sometimes over training can interfere with sleep, making us restless, and more tense without a proper resting period. While adaptation happens in recovery periods, cyclists can help maximize active recovery days with Restorative Yoga. A cyclist can only ride for so many miles and so many days in a row before the body gets tighter with repetitions of pedaling and static positions on the saddle. With stretching, or yoga, you can counteract imbalances on the saddle by maintaining flexibility. Adding yoga to your active rest day can also help aid with sleep, posture, and muscle recovery allowing your next cycling session to be even better.

Recovery Ride
Just like yoga, active recovery should fit into your training schedule once or twice a week following the hard days on the bike. When doing a recovery ride, they should be on a flat route and short, 30-60 mins, with very low levels of exertion and heart rate. Recovery rides help aid the process of blood flow to repair damaged muscles while flushing out metabolic waste. They can also help maintain general momentum in training and add smiles where you should be feeling better after than before.
While you may enjoy these activities, remember to take a whole day off while putting your feet up on the couch. Watch the races for inspiration, listen to cycling podcasts, and read a good cycling book to help get your mind off of aching muscles. Resting is also a fun way to spend with loved ones, catching up on favorite podcasts while cooking a recovery meal and stretching while catching up on favorite shows in the front of the tv. This may be only me but before I nod off to sleep, I like to turn off and keep all my electronics out of my bedroom before I lay in bed with a good book which also helps me drift into sleep easier. Sleep is your biggest ally to get the most marginal gains in recovery so treat sleep like it's your best riding friend.

While riding your bike can be great in keeping you happy, healthy, and fit, taking time off it also helps in increasing all these and performance. It would do us all good to remember that if your body is sending you signals to rest, do it. There is no point in trying to push to the next level when you're body isn't going to do what you want while potentially risking illness or injury. Instead, take a bubble bath, eat all the pasta, practice yoga till you're zenned out, and sleep like a newborn baby. You'll feel so much better and feel your performance and fun factors improve when you're ready for the next adventure.

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