Cheap vs Expensive Ways to Recover

By Jiri Kaloc

Every cyclist would love to recover faster after a hard ride. There are many different ways to speed up recovery, but they differ in price and effectiveness. What are the things that have the greatest benefit that cost the least? Here is an overview of the most popular recovery tools.

The Cost-benefit recovery quadrant

When trying to decide what to spend money and time on to improve recovery, you have to take into account two main things: how expensive and how effective something is. Peter Tierney, Ph.D., a research scientist, put together a handy graph rating a lot of the things that can influence your recovery. It can help you narrow down the things you should focus on. Let’s take a closer look at it:

Sleep is the cheapest and most effective recovery tool

One thing that clearly stands out is that a lot of the really effective stuff is free or quite affordable. Sleep is a great example of that. You can do a lot for your recovery just by improving your sleep. Check out our series for a few tips. Interestingly, sleep is also where one of your best monetary investments can be. If you do want to spend money, a quality bed and mattress is likely the best bang for your buck.

Another area from the cheap and effective quadrant worth mentioning is proper hydration and nutrition. If you understand the basics, you don’t really need to spend extra on food or buy supplements and you will boost your recovery significantly. Check out our tips for recovery nutrition here.

Cryotherapy is really expensive but effective

Switching to the expensive but effective quadrant, cryotherapy stands out. Studies show that it is effective for recovery after exercise. The issue is that a single session of whole-body cryotherapy will cost you around €40. That’s just not something most cyclists can afford on a regular basis. If you’re curious about it, check out our article to find out how it works.

Luckily, there are cheaper ways to use extreme temperature exposure in your favor, such as sauna. We wrote an article about how exercise combined with sauna not only improves recovery but has many other health benefits too. If you’re looking for more ways to spend money effectively, then getting a quality sports massage or paying for a coach to help you better plan your training load are both smart options too.

Alcohol is an expensive way to ruin your recovery

It is just as important to understand things that can negatively impact your recovery. Alcohol is a great example of something that costs money and directly slows down your recovery process. This is not to say you can’t enjoy a cold beer after a hot summer ride. But if you’re investing money and effort into optimising recovery before an important race, you should perhaps drink beer some other time.

Unfortunately, there are many other things that cyclists do that hinder recovery. For example, anxiety is the cheapest way to undermine your recovery. Similarly, chronic stress can really take a toll on your body’s ability to bounce back from a hard ride. You can find several stress management techniques in our previous series.

What should you do?

Recovery doesn’t need to be expensive. Consistently doing the basics right will have the largest positive impact on your recovery, and it doesn’t cost you any money. Make sure to mainly focus on things like sleep, rest days in nature, hydration, nutrition, and sunlight. When it comes to spending money on recovery, there are only a few things that are truly worth it. A good bed and mattress and a coach are at the top of that shortlist. Don’t feel any pressure to buy the latest gadget, supplement, or service if cycling is not how you make a living.