Fact or fad?
So, how can we speed the process of recovery? There are many tricks that people use in approaching recovery, in an attempt to speed the process and reduce pain, but many have proved to be ineffective. For instance, many think that stretching after a training session can reduce muscle damage and soreness. Unfortunately, though, studies suggest your muscles won’t be spared simply by holding a position for 15 seconds after a difficult session, as stretching has little or no effect on short-term muscle soreness.
That’s not to say that cyclists shouldn’t make stretching a regular part of their training routine. In the long term, flexibility training (prolonged stretching over time) has been shown to reduce the amount of tearing that occurs during intense training, according to a study in the American journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise..
Ice baths have also been a highly publicised technique used by the ultra-competitive. Yet, the majority of the studies contest any benefit of their use. A 2007 paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that ice baths actually hindered recovery, while some recent papers suggest a small benefit after sprint training. Immersing yourself in a cold bath (around room temperature) and contrasting this with hot water has produced much better results.
Another popular method of reducing muscle soreness and speeding recovery is active recovery, replacing rest time with light exercise. While the science often supports it, active recovery has its drawbacks.
Matheson warns: “Once you raise your pulse, you raise your metabolic rate and once you raise your metabolic rate you’re not creating the new proteins or the adaptation that your training has pushed you to achieve. The adaptations that you would get from recovery aren’t taking place.’ So while a gentle warm-down is a good idea, replacing valid rest time with more exercise can prove problematic.