Cycling can certainly be a way to relax and give yourself a mental and physical break from the day's responsibilities—it's why many of us ride, after all.
But for those of us who train, not just ride, on a daily basis, cycling adds a significant amount of physical stress to our days. This is intentional, as this training workload is what helps manifest endurance and strength, but it doesn't just stop after the ride. We all-too-often find ourselves sprawled out on the living room floor, unable to fully relax, and this can lead to restless nights and suboptimal recovery for the next day's effort.
While everyone approaches this differently, this handful of ways to wind down after a hard ride, this list addresses the restlessness many of us experience after a long day in the saddle.
Read a Book
When was the last time you picked up a book? If you're like many of us, life's responsibilities often take precedent over curling up on the couch with some tea (or electrolytes) and enjoying flipping through the pages. It's a great way to relax and let your mind be occupied by new plots and ideas, and if you're a die-hard cyclist, there are plenty of great cycling-related books to check out. Titles like "Slaying the Badger" and "The Secret Race" are popular, and here we've listed even more to check out that will help you wind down while keeping you motivated to get back out there tomorrow.
Watch a Documentary
Nothing says "wind down" more than a documentary, especially one that's cycling related. Netflix has a library of great documentaries about our favorite two-wheeled sport, including coverage of Lance Armstrong's polarizing racing career, the benefits of large-scale bike commuting, the 4,233-mile TransAmerica trail and more. Click here for six of our favorites, streamable on Netflix right now.
We're not talking about an advanced vinyasa flow, but practicing yoga after a hard ride is more about relaxing, sustained poses to help you calm down and elongate. We assume most of us aren't yoga instructors, so here are seven of our favorite at-home online yoga platforms that offer not just streamable yoga classes, but breathing and mindfulness instruction as well. Even a simple 10- to 15-minute video will make a huge difference in helping you wind down after a hard effort.
If you don't have time for a yoga video (or don't have access to a phone or computer), here are seven simple stretches for cyclists that are easy to remember and can be done anywhere.
Watch YouTube Videos
If you haven't found yourself down the YouTube rabbit hole lately, you might be surprised at the quality cycling content that's available. From Lance Armstrong's Tour de France recaps to embarrassing things cyclists say, add these YouTube videos to your post-ride watch list. For the ultimate videos to "wind down" to, check out these seven inspirational bikepacking videos on YouTube. They're longer, filled with the sights and sounds of nature and will have you daydreaming about your next ride.
Take a Bath
Showers might be a faster and more efficient solution for cleaning up after a hard ride, but a bath has a whole number of benefits that help you mentally and physically relax. The warm water is great for relaxing your muscles, stimulating your nervous system and lowering blood pressure, and studies show that baths also help reduce stress, depression and fatigue. Pair this with a podcast or YouTube video, and you'll be set in no time.
Listen to a Podcast
Are you tired of looking at screens all day? Listening to your favorite podcast is a great way to disconnect after a hard ride. The lack of visuals is relaxing, they're engaging without being stimulating and can be listened to literally anywhere, so you aren't tied down to spaces with a TV or screen. While not all of these are specifically cycling related, these endurance-themed podcasts include everything from race recaps and gear reviews, to pro athlete interviews and training tips.
This might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to wind down after a hard ride isn't to plop on the couch and use some of the methods listed above—it's to keep moving. No, this doesn't mean more miles on the bike. It's more about helping your body flush out lactic acid and prevent yourself from being too stiff and sore as you progress through the evening. Things like walking the dog, taking out the trash, taking the kids to the park and washing the dishes are stress-free activities that are a great transition between your bike ride and your evening wind-down routine.
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