There is nothing like a hard ride on your mountain bike to make the body feel like it needs a bit of TLC. Team Hansgrohe mixed team rider, Robert Vogel, shares with us the importance of looking after your body: before, during and after the ride, and gives us some tips on just how to do this.
“My training for the ABSA Cape Epic started in earnest around the middle of December last year. Having participated 6 stage races in 2013, I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of long rides on my training schedule. I thought the base miles were in the bank and that the focus would be on the short, sharp interval sessions.
The first training block of 3 weeks contained 3 and 5 hour rides respectively, mainly over weekends, but at “race intensity” . This means riding in a high heart rate zone for the majority of the ride, pushing hard on the climbs and keeping a high cadence on the flat sections.
I was basically learning how to ride at a higher intensity for longer, training the body to increase my power output and teaching the mind to accept the pain.
A good coach will tell you that your body adapts and gets stronger during the rest phase and not while you’re actively pushing the pedals. Your body needs, in fact demands, the recovery phase after each hard session. So, after a hard training day, the next day would be all about recovery and taking it easy: so, 90 minutes at a high cadence with very little exertion, just cruising along the road, generally followed by a rest day.
When you’re on a training schedule, make sure there is a lot of variety to keep you from getting frustrated and bored. There have to be days where the schedule says, “Go out and have fun for 3 hours”. It keeps you focussed on the bigger picture.
Along with on-the-bike training, a good regime of stretching is essential. You can actually feel the difference between having and not having stretched after a hard training ride or race. You muscles are hard, knotty & sore. When you get up and ride the next day, the legs feel sore for longer.
A simple stretch to do after a tough day in the saddle: sit down with your feet folded under your bum. Lean back as far as you can, keeping your knees in contact with the floor. Hold for 3 seconds and release. Repeat at least 10 times. If you have a foam roller (a thicker and shorter version of a pool noodle) at home, use that to lengthen and smooth out sore muscles and break up adhesions and scar tissue. It’s flipping sore when you do it and you will be screaming if you do it properly. As they say in the classics, ‘No pain, No gain!” Learn to eat during a ride and make sure you eat at the right time. Often, the water tables are too far apart, so don’t only rely on them for nutrition. I have taught myself to eat something every 45 minutes, it’s almost more important than hydrating. Once you’ve gone too long without eating, you can’t make it up. It’s too late and you’ll bonk. Everyone has their favourite food to eat during the race, whether it’s a gel, like my Dutch friend in the photo taken at Welvanpas over the weekend, or whether it’s a piece of fruitcake, an apple or a banana. Eat, eat, eat. Natural foods are best – too many gels can attack the stomach lining and make you feel ill. Remember. Don’t experiment with new supplements or nutrition during an event. Try it in the lead up and see how you react. Stick with the tried and tested.
When you hit the finish line of another tough Cape Epic stage, the recovery clock starts ticking. You have got to fill up those muscle stores within the first 30-60 minutes of finishing, that’s when your body is most accepting and keen to refuel. The best thing is chocolate milk (or just plain milk), biltong or any other form of protein you can stomach. Hydrate and keep sipping from a bottle, rather than glug down everything in one go. Eat whenever you feel hungry and use those top up meals. On average, a rider will burn around 24000 calories during the Epic. You don’t want to lose weight during the race, but rather try to maintain the weight you start with. Then you’re eating right and giving your body enough fuel to race the next day.When you’ve done eating your lunch, it’s time to shower. A strong, hot shower will do wonders for your body and mind. To me, it’s like a reward after a hard ride. You’ve suffered, sweated and gotten dirty on the ride, the shower signals the start of the rest phase. A hot, hot shower is like a sauna, relaxing your muscles. Some showerheads have a massage setting – if yours does, use it! Take a few minutes more to soak and reflect on the ride. You’ve earned it.
All of the above are just as essential if you’ve competed in a one day race, or just been out with mates for a long, hard ride on the trails. Be fit enough for the ride you’re about to embark on. Eat and drink regularly to keep your engine firing at full power. Eat mainly protein after a hard ride and stretch those sore muscles.
Most importantly, have fun!”