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Race to Your Peak: Key Recovery Strategies for the Tour of America's Dairyland and Chicago Grit

The Tour of America’s Dairyland and Chicago Grit (formerly Intelligentsia Cup) are coming. 

You’ve done all the training, you’re peaked, and ready to go. 

Racing many days in a row requires a careful balance of hard efforts and recovery

Let’s talk through some of the most important elements so that you can be at peak performance every day.

Discover essential recovery tips and strategies for multi-day criterium racing at the Tour of America's Dairyland and Chicago Grit. Maximize performance and stay fresh daily!

After the race (and pre-race)

1.  Sleep

Get as much sleep as possible: nine hours is ideal. 

Traveling to the races will make sleep a challenge, but do everything possible to get nine hours of sleep a night. 

Sleep releases growth hormones and other materials that will speed recovery more than anything else. 

2. Recovery through nutrition

You can stay strong and recover from multiple hard days with good nutrition

When you finish a race, starting with the pre-race tune-up ride you do the day before, drink a protein shake or drink with 20 to 30 grams of protein. 

Have another protein shake/drink before you go to bed. 

Eat some carbohydrates as soon after the race as you can. And eat a good meal after the race that includes plenty of carbohydrates, protein, and good fats. 

Eat when you’re hungry but don’t stuff yourself. 

Eating smaller meals more often will top off your glycogen stores. 

Aim for one gram of protein per pound of body weight and one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. 

3. Do yoga for recovery

Doing some yoga for recovery after every race will keep your joints and muscles loose. 

Focus on opening your hips (low lunges and Lizard pose) and opening the front of your body with Cobras and Baby Cobras. 

Here are some sample recovery sessions I created specifically to help cyclists and runners recover from hard efforts and races:

Yoga Recovery 1

Yoga Recovery 2

Yoga Recovery 

Yoga Recovery 4

You can use the same one each night and morning or use different ones. 

Other recovery modalities:

  • Massage therapy: Regular sports massages can help reduce muscle tension and soreness.
  • Foam rolling: Self-myofascial release with a foam roller can improve blood flow and reduce muscle tightness.
  • Compression wear: Wearing compression garments can enhance blood flow and reduce muscle soreness and swelling.I usually put on tights soon after the race and wear them all evening. 
  • Relaxation techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to manage stress and mental fatigue.
  • Positive visualization: Visualize successful performances and positive outcomes to maintain motivation and focus.
  • Regular schedule: Establish a consistent recovery routine each day to ensure all aspects of recovery are addressed. For example, get to the races at the same time and do the same process once you get there. 

Before the race

To keep yourself calm and prepared for the race, I'd suggest following these guidelines before each race:

1. Nutrition

  • Pre-race meal: Consume a carbohydrate-rich meal 3-4 hours before the race. Aim for 1-4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. This helps to ensure your glycogen stores are topped off. Include a moderate amount of protein and a small amount of fat.
    • Example meal: Oatmeal with bananas and a small serving of yogurt or pancakes with eggs and fruit. 
  • Hydration: Start the day with 500-750 ml of water upon waking and continue to sip on water or an electrolyte drink leading up to the race.
  • Snack one hour before the race: Have a light, easily digestible carbohydrate-rich snack if needed.
    • For example, a snack can be a banana, an energy bar, or a piece of toast with jam.

2. Warm-Up Routine

  • Dynamic warm-up: Engage in a dynamic warm-up routine to increase blood flow and muscle temperature, preparing your body for intense activity. Include movements like leg swings, high knees, and butt kicks.
  • Cycling warm-up: A 15-20 minute warm-up on the bike that includes easy pedaling, followed by a few short, high-intensity efforts to activate your anaerobic system and increase your heart rate. Our warmup is a few minutes of easy riding, a few minutes of tempo riding, followed by a few more minutes of easy riding. Then we do three 20 to 30-second hard efforts to get our heart rates up. 

3. Mental preparation

  • Visualization: Spend a few minutes visualizing the race course and your strategy. Picture yourself riding smoothly, handling turns efficiently, and reacting to race dynamics confidently.
  • Positive affirmations: Use positive self-talk to boost your confidence and focus.

4. Gear check

  • Bike check: Ensure your bike is in optimal condition. Check tire pressure, brakes, gears, and any other essential components. Make sure you bring your bike to your local bike shop or have a good mechanic go over your bike before the start of the racing. 
  • Equipment and nutrition: Make sure you have all necessary equipment, such as your helmet, shoes, race kit, and on-bike nutrition (gels, bars, and bottles).

5. Timing and logistics

  • Race timing: Plan to arrive at the race venue with enough time to handle registration, set up, and warm-up without feeling rushed. I generally get there 90 minutes before the start of a race so I can register, do my pre-race rituals, and get on the trainer. 
  • Course familiarization: If possible, familiarize yourself with the course, noting any challenging sections or technical turns.

Need more? 

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Paul Warloski is a:

  • USA Cycling Level 2 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer
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