I am always amazed by cyclists and other endurance athletes who spend thousands of dollars buying the best equipment so they can get a competitive edge in their next race, but then neglect the steps necessary to help them recover faster after the event. A great bike ride doesn’t begin when you put your Lycra on—it actually started the moment finished your last ride. If you would like to improve your athletic performance I would highly recommend you buy a copy of The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery by Sage Roundtree (VeloPress, 2011).
This book is divided into three sections. The first section is rather short and deals with how we measure and define recovery. The second section is the heart of the book and deals with specific recovery techniques, such as nutrition, hydration, supplements, sleep, massage and other recovery aids. The third and final section discusses how to put all the pieces together.
One of the most valuable sections of the book is the one on Nutrition And Hydration (chapter 9). Most athletes have heard of the recovery window (AKA, the glycogen synthesis window). This window is the short period of time after exercise when, if you follow the right steps, your body can quickly absorb nutrients and give a jump-start to your recovery process. Consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates and protein after exercise will replenish your energy stores and help rebuild muscle fiber. I was surprised to find out that “female cyclists responded very differently than male cyclists when they ingested a recovery snack containing protein” after exercise. In addition, if you are a vegetarian you need to pay special attention to your protein intake since plant proteins are not digested the same way as animal proteins.
The section of the book on Technological Aids (chapter 13) discusses products like therapeutic ultrasound devices and electrostimulation (E-stim). A few years ago I bought both an ultrasound device and an E-stim unit and they make a world of difference in my recovery time. However, I know of very few cyclists who have invested in these devices—even though they are both cheaper than a good saddle.
If you suffer from muscle pain very often you are going to appreciate the section on Self-Massage (chapter 15). Not only does this chapter explain the importance of foam rollers and beaded sticks, but it shows you how to use them properly. You can buy a foam roller at most sporting good stores for around $30, and if you follow the instructions given in the book you can massage your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and IT bands and you will feel like a new person in just 15 minutes or so.
This paperback book is loaded with charts, graphs and tables (for my fellow visual learners). This book is very well documented and illustrated. There are some chapters that will probably tell you more than you want to know, but I am one of those people who likes to see authors “prove their work.”
Like most amateur cyclists, I’ve never had a coach or fitness instructor and everything I know about muscle recovery had to be learned the hard way. If I could have found a book like this ten years ago it would have saved me from a lot of grief and pain.
The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery is 248 pages long and retails for $19, but Amazon.com sells it for under $13. If I haven’t convinced you yet that you need this book, you can download a free preview of The Athlete’s Guide To Recovery from the VeloPress Website (see link the bottom of that page). The preview is a small PDF booklet that contains the table of contents, preface, and first chapter of the book, along with a few other sections.