Recovery is as important as training
It may seem like there’s no time to focus on recovery when you only have 6 weeks to peak for a race. But the opposite is true. When you make changes to your training like we discussed in part one of the series – adding more hours in the saddle, higher intensity, interval training – it’s going to be more important than ever to bounce back well from these. That’s why week 3 is the best time to shift focus on recovery.
Sleep – The most important recovery tool you have is your sleep. Take sleep as seriously as your training in the lead up to your race. Plan for an extra hour in bed, set up an early bed-time alarm if you have to. Schedule a nap during the day if you don’t manage to sleep longer at night. Try to optimizing your sleep environment, make your room cool, dark, and quiet, and do something relaxing before sleep. Don’t consume any alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
Post-ride nutrition – We covered fuelling in the last article but post-ride nutrition is especially important for recovery. So, it’s good to repeat the main points. Aim for a carbohydrate and protein-rich meal within an hour after a ride. Make sure you get at least 1,5 g of protein per 1 kg of body weight on those hard training days. Aim for 500-1000 ml of fluids per hour on the bike and maintain hydration after for optimal recovery.
Stretching and massage – Stretching and foam rolling after every hard training session can help reduce muscle tension and aid recovery. If you can also slot in a massage into your schedule, these next few weeks will be the best time to do that. Massages improve blood flow into your muscles which speeds up the repair and recovery overall.
Stress management – Unfortunately, training stress is not the only source of stress that exhausts your body. That’s why it’s important to manage your overall stress during the last few weeks before a race. Make sure you don’t overbook yourself. Try to simplify your life and plan enough downtime and relaxing activities to reduce mental stress. You can experiment with things such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga.
Practice skills you will need for racing
Week 4 is going to be all about sharpening your racing skills. This will take many forms depending on what kind of event you signed up for.
Riding in a group – A lot of races like criteriums, road races, and MTB races will require you to ride in close contact with other cyclists at high speeds. This may not seem like something you need to practice, but if you do most of your cycling alone, you would be surprised. Sign up for some local group rides or get together with a safe-sized group of friends to get acquainted with riding in a pack and paceline. Check out our article on the 5 essential group riding skills before you head out.
Climbing and descending – Many road and MTB events are likely to present you with a fair amount of climbing. Even though climbing is a lot about fitness, there are still things you can practice to give yourself an edge. Check out our article from Matt Stephens to learn more. Descending is even more about skill. Go over our 7 top tips to see what you can improve.
Bike handling – This encompasses a wide range of skills, from balance and control, to being able to take a drink or eat food while riding. Focus on specific handling skills you will need for your selected race. If it’s gravel you signed up for, we have a few tips for you right here.
Pacing – Last but not least, you have to pay some attention to pacing before your race. Going out too fast can lead to a blow-up later in the race. Learn to learn to listen to your body’s signals and combine that with the numbers you’re seeing on your cycling computer to stay on top of how hard you should be pushing.
These are your assignments for the following 2 weeks. The rest of the series will look at mental preparation and the last piece of the puzzle, tapering.