The aftermath – How cyclists actually recover post-ride

Tired cyclist
The suffering is over.
Many hard miles logged, metres climbed. You’re so tired you’re unsure of your own name. After a hard ride there’s only one thing on your mind. It’s not stretching. Or active recovery, or even your ‘nutrition strategy’ otherwise known as eating. No. Get me off this bike, you think. Now.

Minute 1

You’re off the bike. For once your precious is far from your thoughts. You’ve abandoned it somewhere, you’re not sure where, you don’t care. Feet on the ground, the earth seems to move, a sailor returning to land after months at sea. Only it’s your legs that are quaking, quivering under the load. You fumble with your door keys like a drunk after a big night out.

Minute 2

You fire up the computer. Strava time. Priorities. Ride uploaded you marvel at your conquest, your great adventure. You spend a few seconds looking at some graphs and pretending to understand them. Time for a beer.

Minute 5

Ha ha, brilliant you think, having finally come up with a name for the ride on Strava. You check for kudos. Nothing. Disappointed, you hit refresh to no avail whilst opening beer #2.

Minute 6

You’ve emptied the food cupboards and your kitchen looks like it’s been burgled, ransacked by wolves. You have no idea what you’ve just eaten. You didn’t chew, just swallowed. Your pet dog trembles in the corner of the room, out of sight, hiding in case it’s next on the menu.

Minute 7

You check Strava for kudos again. Nothing. One more refresh. One more beer.

Minute 8

You’re lying on the floor in filthy Lycra. Your stretching routine consists of opening and closing your mouth. You’d cry if you had the energy. The ceiling above seems to spin and the dog comes over to see if you’re still breathing. You do not flinch when it licks your salty face.

Minute 15

It takes over a minute to pull yourself off the floor and return to the fridge. So hungry. You look for protein but see only salad. Noooo! Thirsty too, all beer drunk, the only cold liquid is the small bottle of fish sauce that’s been in the fridge ever since you tried cooking Thai curry five years ago.

You pick up a scent and gag, something smells like it’s dying. You sniff the fridge for a moment until you realise the smell is you. Must shower. It’s winter and you’re wearing more layers than an onion. Try as you might you cannot pull the sweaty base layer over your head. You imagine being in an emergency room, doctors skilfully cutting your clothes off with scissors.

Minute 18

You’re finally naked. You check your calves and stare at the muscle definition, convinced it is more pronounced than last week. You admire the bulging veins whilst doing your best not to look at your emaciated upper body. You trace the outline of your old summer tan lines, still there, waiting for a top up.

Minute 19

All is well in the world, Strava kudos ahoy. Thanks random person / automated bot in Lithuania.

Minute 20

The shower is hot yet you turn up the temperature despite the fact you’ve almost passed out three times. You catch a glimpse of your face in the mirror and wonder what the white streaks across you cheeks are. Snot. Not that anybody would have noticed, so busy would they have been staring at the blob of banana stuck to your chin.

Minute 40

You finally leave the shower. Back in the kitchen you’re on the hunt for food that will cook as quickly as possible. You begin to panic, the magical 20 minute window to refuel long gone. Coffee brewed, you find yourself with a weird concoction of carbs and protein in a saucepan. You don’t bother with a plate and eat stood next to the kitchen worktop, stretching your legs in what can only be described as half-assed. You review your ride on Strava again, proud.

Minute 41

You’ve eaten everything, even the salad. Masses of food sits heavy in your belly, pulling you to the sofa. You lie down and elevate your legs where you remain like a dead rat. You stare at your ride on Strava for a moment until sleep strikes despite the coffee. You sleep like a baby. A drunken baby. Nothing disturbs you.

Two hours later

You wake up, legs sore, devastation all around you. Damp and dirty Lycra strewn all across the floor, the kitchen a bomb site. It can wait. You stand gingerly and try to remember the post ride stretching exercises you read about in Cycling Weekly but the best you can manage is an impression of an old man trying to put his slippers on. You cook and eat again. Good job you never washed up eh? You climb back on the couch and pick up the massage stick, which you use to bring the remote control closer before rolling it back beneath the couch.

8 pm

You’re focusing on your recovery. You’re asleep. You dream of new legs.

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Image courtesy of the excellent Rapha spoof site by Team GVA

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12 thoughts on “The aftermath – How cyclists actually recover post-ride

  1. You’ve missed the crucial advice: Arnica or HEET lineament. After long rides get massive charley horses or spasms, seemingly in different parts of arm, back, calves, hands or thighs. But a little dab will relax these torturers that will knock you right out of bed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. That smug feeling I get sitting on my patio exhausted after a ride, still in my kit with a coffee, waiting for that first Strava kudos notification to flash up on my phone as I nod to myself in narcissistic self satisfaction 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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