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Resting Period for Cyclists: Why is Sleep an Important Component for Rest

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Like in any form of exercise, the concept of having ample rest in between training sessions is also followed in cycling. Cyclists put their body in workout mode when they ride, and then allow the body to recover from the effects of their workout. This is why resting period for cyclists, like for other athletes and sports-persons is very important.

Training programs for cyclists focus on improving their endurance, speed, muscle flexibility and cycling skills. These programs also give a lot of importance to resting periods post cycling, where cyclists re-stock on their power and energy. These resting periods also focus a lot on sleeping, since sleep has been directly implicated in the general well-being of a person.

What Should be Done on Rest Days

Training schedules for cyclists often have a rest day. These rest days are meant for sore muscle recovery and rebuilding power and stamina for the next training session. Rest days should be dedicated to very light body movements and gentle exercises like a walk or a relaxing swim. However, it is not recommended that cyclists take a complete break from all activities on their rest days.

Resting period for cyclists is an opportunity for them to get off from their ride and give their body and mind some time off. During cycling, mental fatigue tends to build up as much as physical fatigue and the activities you do on your rest day should aim at relaxation.

Talking of relaxation, our next section explains the importance of sleep and why is it essential for cyclists to have a proper post cycling sleep pattern and routine.

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Why is Sleep Important for Cyclists

Sleep is such an important part of everyone’s life that we cannot imagine a day (or night) without sleep. We all are familiar with the groggy feeling we have in the morning after poor sleep at night. The biological evidence establishes that sleep is the time when our body recovers from injury. It is also the time when our body’s defense systems are most functional.

Cyclists tend to have more pains and aches than non-cyclists. They use their muscles more often and consequently, injure them more. Therefore, it is more important for cyclists and other active athletes to devote enough time to sleep.

Let us see how does poor sleep quality affect cyclists.

In a typical, complete sleep cycle, the brain focuses on repairing the physical injuries before mental exhaustion. Simply speaking, if you don’t sleep well at night, you’re going to be cranky and irritable, but your sore muscle recovery might have been accomplished in a smaller sleeping cycle.

Therefore, occasional episodes of cycling after no sleep isn’t going to affect the next-day performance of a cyclist. The trouble begins if this happens a few nights in a row. In a continuous state of poor sleep, the brain doesn’t coordinate body movement and metabolism very well. It reflects in the form of decreased performance of cyclists and more muscle recovery time.

The pituitary gland in humans releases the Growth Hormone when the body is in the state of sleep. Instead of a continuous release, this hormone has spurts. A combination of exercise and sleep increases the release of this hormone, which then boosts the body’s repair and restoration ability.

sleeping cycling exercise
Sleep is essential for resting (Source)

This makes proper sleep an important component of resting period for cyclists. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it might be because of improper sleep in your routine.

  • You are catching a cold and cough more often than before.
  • It is a big effort for you to get up in the morning and carry out your daily activities.
  • You are irritable for no reason.
  • It is difficult for you to focus on simple things.
  • You are generally unhappy.

Many of these symptoms can be simply because you are not getting adequate rest and sleep.

Read: How to Recover from Overtraining?

Include Sleep in the Resting Period

Now that we know that good sleep is important for cyclists, it makes complete sense to include sleep time when you are taking rest from cycling. It is a completely normal feeling if you want to devote most of your time to cycling, but some discipline is required. Making a sleep schedule is the best bet for cyclists who wish to make the most of their resting period.

A cycling recovery week should be planned such that each day is a proper mix of sleep and light activities.

To make it easier for you to incorporate sleep time into your timetable, think of sleep as a part of your training!

A great way to include sleep in resting period for cyclists is to take an afternoon nap. These naps are better taken in the early afternoon, and should not be beyond two hours. Otherwise, you will have trouble falling asleep at night.

cycling recovery week
Proper mix of sleep and light activities is essential (Source)

How to Facilitate a Good Night’s Sleep

We hope that we have been able to convince the readers that they need to include proper sleep in their routine. We will now discuss some tips by which cyclists can have a sound sleep at night and reap maximum benefits from it.

  • Disciplined Lifestyle

This is the essence of all fitness programs. ‘Early to bed and early to rise’ is an adage that is beneficial for everyone. Cyclists should make it a point not to cut down on their night sleep thinking they will sleep in the afternoon. The benefits of nighttime sleep are far more than daytime sleep.

  • Bye-Bye Smartphones

Smartphones have been declared the number one reason for sleep-related disorders. They hamper the body’s ability to sleep at night by altering the hormonal milieu.

The brain releases the hormone melatonin when the surroundings are dark. This hormone is responsible for that drowsy feeling before falling asleep. If you look at your smartphone after sundown, the brightness it casts on the eyes signals the brain to shut the production of melatonin. This makes it difficult for us to fall asleep.

It is, therefore, very important for you to get rid of that smartphone in the evening, if you want to sleep well at night.

  • Eating in Moderation

A critical determinant of your sleep quality is the amount of food you ingest before bedtime. It is recommended that one should neither eat too much before bedtime nor go to the bed hungry. Eating in moderation is considered to be best for sleep quality.

Check all about Sugar Intake for Cyclist- Check if you are Off Limit!

The time at which you have your last meal of the day could also impact your sleep quality. It is recommended that your last meal should be at least 3 hours before you hit the bed. Consumption of caffeine has also been linked to sleep deprivation, hence it is best to ditch your post-meal coffee.

  • Exercise Routine

In general, cyclists who have their last practice-ride at night tend to lose out on sleep quality. This is because late night exercise disrupts the body’s natural sleep pattern. It is not recommended to have a high-intensity workout at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.

Know more about Pilates for Cyclist!

Resting Period for Cyclists: The Final Verdict

When they are not cycling, cyclists should take a break from their regular routine and devote time to relaxation. They should focus on getting proper sleep and make sure that their diet promotes recovery and repair of muscles. You will be surprised to know what pro cyclists do on rest days. Sleep includes about 10 – 12 hours of their daily resting period routine.

rest from cycling
Devote time to relax (Source)

Watching the dietary intake is also a great thing to do during the recovery period for cyclists. They should include cycling recovery foods like fresh tropical fruits- pineapples, mangoes and passion fruit, and fish in their diet because these food items are associated with repairing functions.

Some of the most popular cycling recovery drinks are cherry juice and beetroot juice. The high amounts of antioxidants present in these fruits boost muscle repair. Similarly, protein-rich drinks that are milk based also help in the faster recovery of sore muscles.

Recovery period for cyclists is the key to their subsequent performance. With a judicious mix of light exercises and proper sleep, cyclists can hope for complete recovery and rejuvenation. This will manifest as better performance on the track.

What does your recovery period consist of? Is there anything specific that you include in your recovery period? We would like to know.

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