By Jason Thomason
With the longest NRS tour of the year, the 6 day, 8 stage Tour of the Great South Coast next week, I thought I would share some of my tips to consistently be able to perform each day during stage races. While some of my techniques may not be scientifically proven, my routine is based off my personal experience, something I’m starting accumulate a fair amount of over many years of racing. Throughout stages races I never find myself having ‘really bad’ days compared to others, and often find I ride into form after a few days, which I believe is because of the emphasis I put on recovery rather than actual physical conditioning, that would require hard training!
These tips are ones that could be used in racing or even by the everyday cyclist trying to back up days on the weekend.
I often hear stories like those from other riders at tours where they describe how they felt like they had no legs on the 2nd day of a tour. I don’t think is conditioning but more lack of emphasis on recovery techniques.
I will take you through a standard process from finishing a stage or ride to starting the following day.
Step 1; As soon as you finish the ride consume simple sugars immediately. Often this is best found in the form of a soft drink, I do prefer a sports drink like Powerade though as it is not a diuretic and you are not further dehydrating yourself with the caffeine found in a drink like coke. These simple carbs are essential in which you further supplement with complex carbs when available.
Step 2; My next step is after having a shower while my muscles are warm spending some good time with a foam roller and pressure ball. The pressure ball is very good at releasing tight muscles and normally keeps me niggle free.
Step 3; I will spend some time with my legs elevated, normally for about 15mins. I often try and select a bed at our team accommodation that best suits being able to lay on it with the legs vertically up the wall. Following on from this I like to put on compression wear until bedtime, I like compression socks over tights as I feel like they can be quite a bit tighter and allow some breathing space downstairs after spending a day in kit.
Step 4; Replace those lost salts! Even when it’s cold your body uses a lot of salts (plus other minerals), so make sure you replace them. I like to snack on something high in salt like Salt and Vinegar chips!
Step 5; Manage protein consumption: Protein is best spaced out over the day, but I normally try and ensure that I have something high in protein prior to bed..
Step 6; the first thing I like to do when I get up is have a warm shower followed by about 15mins of stretching all the major muscle groups. I often find I’ll wake up feeling lethargic during a tour and have stiff legs. I find this technique really helps with feeling fresh and puts the head in a positive mindset. If I could do one of the six steps I have mentioned this would be the one!
While I don’t know which of these ideas are still relevant or peer-reviewed, I do know if I follow this routine I’ll almost always get on the bike the following day with legs as good as the previous day. If I don’t do any of this, my legs are almost guaranteed to be terrible. My recommendation is to try to find a few things that work for you then stick to them methodically. Make it your normal.