Are You Sabotaging Your Workouts?

How your actions off the bike can help or hinder your performance.

It’s not enough to just show up and ride (though it’s a very good start!). To reap the optimal benefits from your indoor cycling workouts, what you do when you’re not on the bike matters, too. The truth is, taking good care of yourself physically and mentally will go a long way toward helping you get stronger and faster, build stamina, and get greater fulfillment from your workouts.

Here’s a look at four pairs of preparatory elements you’ll want to include in your behind-the-scenes training (think of the acronym FARS to remember them):

Food and fluids: For optimal health and exercise performance, it’s essential to consume a healthy, balanced diet—with plenty of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein—with regular meals throughout your waking hours. This will help keep your body in good working order and provide you with plenty of energy for intense forms of exercise like indoor cycling. It’s also important to fuel up (with a light snack, if not a full meal) before you ride so you don’t lose steam halfway through your workout. Also, be sure to stay well hydrated before, during, and after your rides, as well as all day long.

Attitude and mental approach: If you show up to your workouts late with a half-hearted attitude or the intention of “dogging it”, you’re engaging in self-handicapping or defensive pessimism, which isn’t going to set you up for a stellar performance.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a go-hard-or-go-home mentality during every single workout but it does mean you should show up with the intention to maximize each session by focusing on honing different aspects of what you’re doing. You can also use clever mental tips and tricks to fire up your performance when you do want to push your limits.

Remember: Having the right mindset is a crucial factor that will help you reach your fitness goals.

Rest and recovery: Just as you need to get plenty of sleep for your mind to function well, the same is true for your physical functioning, too. Without sufficient slumber, your coordination, strength, and stamina are likely to suffer. Plus, it’s while you’re sleeping that your body swings into damage control mode, repairing muscles, tendons, and ligaments that were strained and removing byproducts that accumulated in your muscles during exercise. Remember, too, to give yourself ample time for recovery between workouts and to take occasional recovery rides to give your body time to recharge its different energy pathways. And definitely take a break if you’re sick with symptoms below the neck (as in: fever, chills, body aches, a severe cough, or digestive distress)—those are signs that your body needs complete rest, not exercise.

Stretching and soothing moves: Make a habit of doing key stretches for your upper and lower body and for your back after every indoor cycling session.

And don’t hesitate to use feel-good tools (like foam rollers) to help you ease soreness and hasten your recovery after a ride. During an ordinary day, it also helps to perform yoga stretches for muscles that easily become tight (especially if you have a desk job). Keeping your muscles and joints loose and limber will help you feel better for your next workout.

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