Ride for recovery

Rob Wakefield, level 3 cycling coach and founder of, offers advice on effective post-race recovery rides ahead of Prudential RideLondon...

Ride for a reason

“A well-timed and judged ride is a key component to an active recovery drill," says Wakefield. "Rather than sit on a couch for a day, I prefer my athletes to get back on the bike as soon as possible after a hard ride as this keeps the metabolism fired, gets the blood circulating and reduces the inflammation and muscle fatigue that can be caused by events or hard training sessions.” Research suggests exercise procedures ‘free radical’ residue that can slow your recovery if they’re not flushed out.

Time your repair

“Recovery rides should ideally be between 60 and 90 minutes maximum on the road – regardless of the intensity of training or the duration of the racing that precedes it,” says Wakefield. But there’s no benefit to be had from pushing the body too hard at this stage. “Intensity should be very low with heart rate in zone 1 (very easy, just turning the legs over) or zone 2 (steady all-day pace where you’d still be able to maintain a conversation)," he says. "Keep in the small ring and use the ride to work on cadence, spinning at 90-100rpm.”

Recipe for recovery

Getting a balance of protein and carbohydrate into your system soon after your event – using a formula shake or easily digested meal – will support your recovery ride. Drip-feed additional nutrients back into your system during the next day around your ride but don’t focus on performance foods during it. “For this recovery ride you don’t need any specific pre ride fuel, and during the ride just some water will suffice,” says Wakefield.

Keep on the level

While your race event may have thrown all sorts of cycling challenges your way – your recovery ride by definition should be as smooth as possible, literally. “Avoid hill climbs or serious off-roading or anything strenuous,” says Wakefield. If you want some more activity, look to recovery drills like self-massage with a foam roller when you’re not riding. “You should aim to do your recovery ride on as flat a route as possible. This is not training for anything. You are preparing your body to train tomorrow!”

Go beyond the bike

As well as the foam roller massage, other ‘active recovery’ moves include using compression garments, eating foods high in anti-oxidants – fruit, berries and even some types of wine – and if the conditions or the state of your bike prevent you from taking to the road, then do a spot of turbo training too. “Going for 30 minutes easy spinning on a turbo or rollers is perfect," says Wakefield. "Heart rate zone 1 or 2 max or under 75 per cent of your threshold power for those with a power meter.”

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