Sometimes it's good to be reminded of some recovery basics - like the benefits of some simple stretching pre & post exercise.
I was out having dinner with a few old school mates last week. One is currently into CrossFit - he's a great athlete, always has been. He was even a contestant on "Gladiators" many years ago, and won his way through a few rounds. Another is also a good athlete, mainly doing running and weights these days.
Over a steak and a beer, I was whinging about how I've been struggling to recover from my bike rides, and backing up on back-to-back days was killing me...
They both laughed and said almost at the same time - "You're not stretching or warming up or down, are you?"
"Ummm, noooo..." I said.
"You've always hated warming up and down! Even 30 years ago when we were in primary school, you tried to skip the warm ups at footy training..." They gleefully reminded me...
Anyway, after a bit of nostalgic banter and backchat, they both implored me to do a few basic warm-up and warm-down stretches around my rides, especially the harder and longer sessions. I promised them I'd give it a crack for a few days.
The next morning, before I rode out of the garage for my commute to work, I spent 5-minutes stretching my quads and glutes. Nothing fancy, just basic stretches. I knocked out a few hard intervals on the way, and then made sure I did a similar stretching warm-down when I hit the locker room post-ride at work.
During the day, I was surprised at how much better and 'looser' my legs felt. Definitely much less of the tightness and soreness that had characterised the last few months. I followed the same routine for the ride home, which was much more enjoyable and pleasant than recent weeks.
I've kept up the pre and post ride stretching routine for the past week or so. The benefits have been unmistakable - I feel much better on the bike, and as a consequence I am enjoying my riding much more.
Stretching is such a simple thing that everyone knows about. But it's also an easy thing to overlook (as I have been doing). I owe my mates a beer at the next catch-up for this one, it has made a huge difference...