Warm weather cycling: Preparation and Recovery

Beijing 2008, the ice vest was king. London 2012, Great Britain’s Cyclists were literally in ‘hot pants’, with both used as techniques to improve the performance of elite athletes.

However, for us mere mortals, we need a real world approach to maximise our riding time and performance.

Recovery is an essential part of any training programme, as it is during the rest and recovery phase that you become stronger and essentially fitter, as your body adapts to an increased workload. A key element of recovery is good planning and preparation.

When the weather gets warm professional coaches would strongly advise against training on really hot days, or at least to train at the cooler ends of the day, in the morning or evening. It is unlikely though, that when the sun shines for those few glorious hours, you are going to sit in your house waiting for the temperature to drop. You want to ride!

If you are planning to make the most of the summer sun, then follow our simple tips, to ensure you have the best chance of being back on the bike the next day.

Ride drinks

To ensure you have a cold drink in the later part of your ride, freeze a bottle of cordial or water the night before. The bottle will defrost over the course of the ride and will be cool for the last part of your training. Don’t use your best water bottle or fill fully, as the bottle can split when the water freezes, three quarters full is fine, and you can always top up before the start of your ride.

Pre and Post-Ride Weight check

On warm days you lose weight through water loss. A 2% loss in your body weight equates to a 20% performance impairment. So on hot days, how hard you can ride could be limited by your hydration and not your physical ability. A large differential between your weight checks indicates you need to drink more fluid; you should replenish with water or an electrolyte drink. (NB Weight checks need to be done naked, and prior to your shower and recovery routine).

Hydration

Keep it simple; try cordial with sugar or simple water. If you do use energy drinks, try to use those with electrolytes, to replace those lost through sweating. You really only need energy drinks for intense rides over an hour in duration. For any intensity of ride less than an hour, water is just fine.

Food

As with hydration try and keep it simple. Products which become sticky or overly chewy are not what you want when it is warm. Try simple dried fruits or a cereal bar. A 60g pack of super market bought dried fruit can provide 40g of carbohydrate. Ideal for a 1-2 hour ride.

Clothing

Clothing should be light-coloured and porous to aid in the dispersal of heat. You may also want to consider the wide range of technical clothing available. These days you can buy shorts, baselayers and even socks that are designed for specific temperature ranges. Although they can seem expensive they can make a real difference in hot weather.

Sun Protection

Sounds obvious, but sun protection is often neglected by cyclists. Make sure you apply your sun-screen pre-ride. A small pack of sun block in your saddle bag or jersey pocket will build your cycling tan in a healthy way.

Ice Vest

You can replicate a post-ride ice vest with a wet, cold towel. Placing the towel around your body core (torso), will relieve muscle tension and reduce your core body temperature.

Plunge Pool

This can be replicated with a cold shower, or even an ice bath. The post-ride benefits of this are that it stimulates circulation, releases “good feeling“ endorphins, and reduces muscle swelling, which in turn can mean less soreness.

Sleeping

Before going to bed it might be worth having a cold (ish) shower, if your ride was particularly hot. Not enough to startle you but enough to bring your core temperate down again. This can be refreshing and allow you to slip off to sleep with ease.

Now that you understand some preparation and recovery principles, make sure you have a reason to use them.