How to recover from a tough endurance workout

I absolutely love a long endurance indoor cycling workout. I feel they give exactly what I need when I get on my indoor bike. They burn a heck of a lot of calories, give me the time to watch my favorite shows, and they hugely improve efficiency and fitness. I’m much happier sitting at a low pace for a long time instead of doing a high-intensity workout.

A long endurance workout is tough on the body, and although it may not feel intense at the time, the after effects can make you feel uncomfortable. That’s how we know a challenging workout has worked by the way we feel through the recovery process.

What can we expect to feel after a tough endurance workout?

It’s important to first discuss what we can expect to feel after a tough endurance workout. The reason I do this is that if you don’t know, you might be feeling something you shouldn’t be, and that could be a sign to seek professional medical advice. Typically after a hard workout, you will feel;

  • Tired mentally and physically
  • Muscle Soreness
  • Body Aches
  • Tight Muscles
  • Stressed
  • Hungry
  • Dehydrated
  • Increased Blood Flow
  • Decreased short term body weight

These are a few things that endurance athletes typically feel after a hard training session. So we need to think about how to alleviate ourselves from the symptoms of this list.

What do we need to do for the best recovery?

The recovery process from a hard endurance workout isn’t complicated, and it all becomes very natural in time. As someone who has been training to an extreme in my career, I have learned that getting a good recovery in makes you stronger and back training hard again quicker. When I think about recovery, I break it down into three main sections.

Nutrition

what to eat for an indoor cycling workout

The first thing I think about is getting the right food in so my body has everything it needs to heal itself when it comes to recovery. Nutrition is a massive part of your recovery, and although you might not want to put extra calories in, sometimes you just have to.

Resting

Get plenty rest

Resting is a vital part of becoming stronger and hitting fitness goals fast. You never hear of many athletes that don’t rest much. They won’t get back on the bike until their body is ready, even if it means sitting on the sofa another day. Also, athletes generally sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night and even longer after a hard race. Sleep is where your body can do its best work in getting you recovered.

Active Recovery

Cat-Cow Stretch warm-up before cycling indoors

Although, in my opinion, nothing beats proper rest and recovery. Having an active recovery can speed up the process of feeling better soon. Low intensity rides and light exercise can speed up the blood flow and help us recover faster. Getting the balance between a light recovery ride and a light endurance workout can be tricky.

What are the best ways to recover?

In the next section, I want to tell you the best ways to give yourself the best recovery possible. Doing all these things will help improve your recovery process, and you will feel much stronger when you next get back on the bike.

High Protein Diet

protein for post ride fuelling

Protein is what our body craves when it comes to recovery after an indoor cycling session, and we need to give it what it needs. Having a recovery drink after a workout and making sure you are getting a regular serving of protein for the next day or two is vital. The process of recovering requires protein synthesis, and you need the right food to do this. This is commonly known as post cycling-workout nutrition and should be at the top of your list.

Staying hydrated

Drink-Water-and-Stay-Hydrated

It’s vital to stay hydrated when in the cycling recovery process. Water helps all your body’s functions, and staying hydrated is crucial to help nutrients flow around the muscles, and also it makes you feel fuller and stops you from overeating. Water, plus a health energy-gel alternative snacks can really help.

Sleep

indoor-cycling-improves-sleeping-quality

Getting as much sleep as your body requires goes a very long way to recovering faster. When you’re tired because of a workout, it’s because your body wants to rest. It’s asking you for quality sleep, and it needs it. Sleeping gives your body time to process what’s has happened while it has been awake, and a challenging endurance workout takes time for the body to process mentally and physically. Sleep is vital when it comes to endurance exercise and is great for the immune system. 

Stretching

how-to stretch before cycling indoors

It’s common after a long endurance workout that your body gets tight. This is normal, and muscles tighten up in their recovery when they have been worked heavily. A good way of easing them can be stretching after your indoor cycling session. When I say stretching in recovery, it has to be the right amount. You don’t want to pull your muscles too much, or you can end up hurting them, so it can only be light stretching.

Active Recovery Session

Active recovery sessions are a fantastic way to recover from a tough workout. An active recovery session is when you lightly work the body, which increases blood flow. Extra blood flow can send more nutrients to the body giving your muscles a better recovery. It has to be done correctly. It can be pretty easy to get on the bike and end up pushing too much. Keeping an eye on your heart rate is vital and make sure you’re not feeling bullied by the workout. I personally like to do something a little simpler and just go for a walk instead.

Massage

Not only does a massage after an endurance home cycling workout feel amazing, but having a massage can help recovery by loosening the body up and letting the blood flow around, and this is amazing for healing. It can also help avoid cramping during cycling workouts.

Compression Garments

I personally don’t do this, but some people find using compression garments helps for recovery and embrace the pain of intense cycling exercise session. In my opinion, this is not great for general recovery, it would only if you have specific injuries you might have picked up over your life and get severe muscle soreness in that area.

Things to avoid when Recovering

As much as we can do the right things to help our recovery, we can also do things that can really mess up your recovery. The main thing to do is firstly not to neglect any of the points above, apart from that, I would highly try and avoid these few things.

Smoking 

Smoking, in general, is pretty awful for you, and personally, it isn’t going to help your recovery either. It will fill your body with toxins and generally slow your healing down terribly.

Drinking Alcohol

I love a beer after a ride, I can’t lie, but it isn’t too good for your body. It dehydrates you heavily and is a lot of empty calories. When in your recovery process, I wouldn’t recommend it.

HIIT Training Sessions

I would only recommend high-intensity and HIIT cycling sessions when you are fully recovered. HIIT is high-intensity interval training and is not ideal for your body while recovering. 

Human Growth Hormone

Although many people will tell you this is amazing for recovery, it isn’t to be played with unless you require it for a controlled condition. Try not to fall into the traps of using heavy recovery supplements that are frowned upon in sports.

Conclusion

You get so many benefits from a tough indoor cycling endurance workout, but any good endurance athletes will tell you to respect your body after and give it adequate recovery. Physical training is very tough on the body, and muscle recovery is a fantastic process that cannot be ignored. Using these tips, you will get the best recovery possible, and it will give you optimal recovery from heavy physical exertion. 

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