Whether you are an indoor cycling instructor like me or just someone who enjoys attending indoor cycling classes, understanding exercise recovery is essential to a healthier lifestyle as well as improved performance and efficiency. No matter how many classes you teach or attend per week (or in another target time period), your body requires a specific amount of time to refuel, rebuild and repair. When you train and work out, the complete benefits are only realized after a full recovery has been achieved. What really matters is the quality of the recovery rather than the quantity.
A restful and consistent sleep pattern is essential to recovery. Slow wave sleep, often referred to as deep sleep, is the constructive phase of sleep for recuperation of the mind-body system in which it rebuilds itself after each day. Growth hormones are secreted to facilitate the healing of muscles as well as repairing damage to any tissues. Lastly, glial cells within the brain are restored with sugars to provide energy for the brain (for more details about the importance of sleep, please refer to this article http://www.hgi.org.uk/archive/sleepanddream1.htm#.VBjpyD9Mv1J). We are all familiar with restless sleep, tossing and turning, and then waking up feeling sluggish, unmotivated and lethargic. To aid in achieving slow wave sleep, limit your intake of stimulants, heavy meals and alcohol after 6pm.
High Quality Nutrition Habits
Speed your recovery by maintaining proper and effective nutrition habits, before, during and after your exercise routines. For example, about an hour before teaching a cycling class, I would eat a banana, a piece of cheese or a boiled egg and intake about 16-32oz of water. During the class, hydration is paramount with another 16-32oz of water to intake as fuel for the ride. After the class ends and for the remainder of the day, I continue hydration and focus on a specific selection of foods that promote recovery, such as:
Low Fat & Protein
Cutting down on all fats from fatty and fried foods, butter, cream, margarine and oils is agreed on by nutritionists as a way of making the modern diet healthier and reducing weight. Cutting down on saturated fat in particular is important for the heart. The job of post-exercise nutrition is to regain hydration status, replenish electrolytes, replace carbohydrate and provide protein for muscle repair and antioxidants to reduce cellular damage (for more details on the role of protein in exercise recovery please refer to this article http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/the-role-of-protein-in-exercise-recovery)
Fiber, that largely indigestible part of our food and often the part that really gets us chewing, is responsible for so much good. It helps to lower cholesterol, and keep our weight in check. Wholemeal and grain breads are full of fiber, as are brown rice, barley, lentils, beans and vegetables.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-oxidants
Vegetables, fruit and grains carry an abundance of vitamins, minerals and numerous other natural substances (called phytochemicals). Phytochemicals function as anti-oxidants, which fight off free radicals that could otherwise damage our cells, membranes and DNA. Numerous studies show that people who eat lots of vegies and fruit have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Moderate Sugar & Salt
In excess, sugar adds unwanted kilojoules and can displace other more important foods. Limiting your sugar intake is a challenge, especially if you love chocolate like me. However, dark chocolate is known for its antioxidant properties and, in moderation can aid recovery. In addition, 75% of our total salt intake comes from everyday commercial foods, so it is imperative to monitor your salt intake from such sources.
During recovery days, I take advantage of yoga classes where stretching and meditation have been shown to enhance recovery. Swimming and using the therapy pool can also accelerate recovery. Moreover, scheduling a deep-tissue or regular massage will help increase circulation, reduce stress and promote relaxation.
In conclusion, the goal of achieving a high quality recovery depends on the choices you make every day. Establishing a framework for your body to recuperate is essential.
Sleep well, eat well, be well.