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After your ride

The fun part is over, until tomorrow.  A different chapter starts now, and it’s all about resetting;
resetting your body, your bike, your clothes, and your mind, to be ready to face another stage the following day.

The after-ride period can take as much time as the riding itself.  But it won’t feel the same, because it is not as physically challenging.

Recuperation

Don’t stay immobile when you complete your ride.  Go for a leisurely round of the block at low speed, or for a little walk as early as you can, while stretching your calves, thighs, hamstrings and Achilles tendons while you are still warm.  This will help to evacuate the lactic acid that has built up in your muscle cells.
While you do this, get some food, especially a sweet drink like a can of soda, to which you will have added up to half a teaspoon of sea salt, depending on how much fluid loss you have experienced during your ride.  This way you will top up your fluid and electrolyte levels to ensure optimal cell functioning.
It’s easy to prepare such a drink before your ride. There are two urgent things to be done at this stage: replace the fluids you have lost through sweat, and immediately increase your glycemic level, i.e.  your blood glucose concentration.  It will typically be quite low now, and your body is still warm and active so it is continuing to use energy, and is starting to repair itself from the torment you have inflicted on it while riding.

Besides glucides, the other nutrient you should consume now is proteins.   Despite all the good will in the world, a long ride causes muscles to use the most immediately available energy after so much time, i.e.  their own cells: made of proteins.  In short your muscles commence to deplete when your body starts to starve and you continue your effort.  Typically this happens after a few hours of effort.  I personally feel I’ve hit a kind of wall after about 3 hours of ride.  This is when I need to have a second snack.

Where can you get proteins quickly?

The most common way to combat this would be to get a protein bar, however they can be costly.  For those on a lower budget, you can try a snack that brings you three requirements: the immediate glucides you need to meet your immediate needs, the proteins to rebuild your depleted muscles, and the first part of the low-GI carbohydrates to start to rebuild your reserves: a Lebanese Bread French Toast.  Accompanied by an Orangina, a can of Coke or Pepsi, with the juice of half a lemon in it, and half a teaspoon of salt.
This is my favourite post-ride snack.  It can keep you going for an extra 3 hours or more, allowing you time for a shower and to get back to work without spending another hour or two eating.

A more carb-rich meal can wait a bit, when your headspins come back! Here again you will need low-GI foods fo a slower glucose release throughout the day and overnight.  This is important since your body will be working hard repairing the“damage” from the exercise.  Finally, finish your meal with a sweet dessert (avoid one that contains high amounts of fat though).

Temperature considerations

Unless you have been riding on a hot Australian summer day, change into dry clothes as soon as you can.
Avoid staying in the wind and don’t stay drenched in your sweat too long as it will make you cool down at a time you don’t need.  The effort is now over, you are not generating heat calories anymore, so the sweat on your body is now nothing but an inconvenience.  As it evaporates, it will cool your skin rapidly, and eventually your core, causing you to shiver to warm you up, at a time that they just need a rest.
Should you attempt any lifting or make any sudden movements you may hurt yourself as your body is now cold.  In addition, your muscular fibers should be worked and stretched while you are still warm.  By stretching while warm your muscles will become more supple.  Failing to stretch could result in stiffness and pain.

Self-Mobilise and Release

Assuming you are a“normal” person, with a life, a family, a job, etc, you do not have a personal physio at your beck and call.  You likely neither have the time to drive to the physio, wait, then spend an hour with them.  Nor will you likely have time to spend an hour stretching and releasing after a ride.  It already takes so much time to prepare your bike, your food, clean your bike maybe, certainly clean your clothes, do the actual ride, etc . . .   However, you do need to stretch and release your muscles if you want to benefit from your training and not feel sore the next day, or for your next ride.
To cut a lot of time spent on the physiotherapy side of riding, without decreasing the quality of the stretching session, you can learn to stretch, mobilise, and release, while doing other activities, including, but not limited to:
  • eating
  • working
  • travelling on a bus
  • playing with your kids
  • having a shower
.

The cleanup chores

There is usually a bit of cleaning up after a ride, starting with the bike itself.  If the road was dusty, or if a sugary drink has spilt on your frame, you likely have a nice, sticky, dirty mess to clean up.  The chain is probably blacker too, and sand and other particles will likely have built up on it.  If you leave it as it is, the chain, as well as the cassette sprockets, will deteriorate before their time, forcing earlier replacement and degraded functioning.  After a few hundred kilometres.  Sports gear typically dries quickly in summer in Australia in just a few hours, however in France it can take a little longer.  Doing this yourself in your hotel room can also be a task you would rather hand over to someone else.  I suggest you get down to this as early as you can after you finish your ride. If you have been riding on a hot/humid day, forget what I said about the cooling down above.  You will find recuperation difficult overnight.  You might still feel hot for a few hours, and sleeping in a hot room will make the whole thing a bit too much of a challenge! If your place is multi-storey, sleep downstairs if you can, where it is cooler.  Have a cool shower as late as you can after your ride so that your body has time to cool down before the shower, otherwise you may continue to sweat after your shower, defeating the purpose of having one.
Favour natural cooling methods as opposed to using air-con.  Walk around bare chest to evacuate the extra calories for free as cold air flowing down directly on you may play adversely, and could chill your muscles causing tightness and pain.
Dietwise, if you still have headspins when you stand up (postural hypotension) at the time of going to bed, it might help to keep a can of soda next to your bed to have little sips if you wake up starving at night.  Taking little sips is the least disruptive approach, this way you can go back to sleep quickly and yet continue to combat any hypoglycaemia. Unless you have pushed yourself so much that the built up lactic acid has not sufficiently be cleared then the following morning shouldn’t see you feeling like you’ve done a dance with a bus! If such is the case and you find it painful just climbing stairs, a light stretch and release should help, although be careful not to stretch too hard while your muscles are not sufficiently warmed up.
Foodwise you must be starving and thirsty as your body has worked all night to repair the fibrous and cellular“damage” done the previous day.  A good porridge, and some all-grain bread is a great start and maybe you will take the time to try a Lebanese Bread French Toast. After the morning necessities are taken care of, and after having been mobile for a bit, its a good time to release your calves, tendons, and stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps more thoroughly.  You should feel improvements after this.
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created 10 September 2012
revised 10 February 2017 by
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