4 Feel-Good Tools to Hasten Recovery After Your Ride

Use these gadgets to relieve muscle soreness fast!


You know that feeling you get after a killer indoor cycling class: A sense of euphoria and accomplishment, followed by a calm body and a focused mind. Sometimes these pleasant sensations are followed by less desirable ones, namely in the form of fatigue, perhaps even serious muscle soreness the next day. These remembrances from rides past aren’t usually appreciated but there’s a reason they happen.

Called delayed onset muscle soreness, the phenomenon occurs 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout, and it’s thought to be caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers and the connective tissues around the muscles. This may sound scary but it’s a normal adaptation to new exercise or more intense exercise. Ultimately, it helps your muscles get stronger as they repair themselves.

There isn’t an easy way to hasten the exit of post-ride soreness but you can ease it, or at least not aggravate it. Believe it or not, consuming tart cherry juice may help because it naturally contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds: A 2010 study from Northumbria University in the U.K. found that participants who drank the sweet-tart beverage daily for five days before, the day of, and for 48 hours after a marathon experienced less inflammation and had their muscle strength recover significantly faster than those who drank a placebo beverage.


It also helps to stick with gentler workouts (even a recovery ride) for a day or two, apply a bag of frozen peas or edamame (wrapped in a towel) to sore muscles, and do some gentle stretches for your upper body and your lower body. In addition, you can use the following tools to placate angry muscles and help them feel better faster.

Foam Rollers: Similar to the benefits of a sports massage, using a foam roller helps soothe tight fascia (connective tissue), break down soft tissue adhesions (clumps of fascia and muscle tissue that get stuck together), and increase blood flow to the muscles and surrounding tissues. These are especially useful for rolling out the kinks in the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and upper back. Stretching after you use a foam roller can help you gain greater flexibility and range of motion. Foam rollers come in a variety of sizes and textures; choose one that feels right to you.  

Stress Balls: Often used in physical therapy or given as holiday stocking stuffers, these small, malleable balls or covered mounds of pliable clay are held and squeezed in the palm of your hand. Repeatedly squeezing then releasing the ball helps relieve muscle tension in the hands, boost circulation, and relieve stress. The pressure from squeezing can also soothe sore tissues in the fleshy part of the hand (at the base of the thumb), aches that may come from gripping the handlebars tightly in cycling.


The Stick: Popular among runners and physical therapists, The Stick® is a massage tool, made of a space-age plastic, that’s designed to compress and stretch tight muscles. When it's pressed and rolled against stiff, tense muscles, it makes them compliant. Similar to a foam roller but smaller, the device can be used for self-massage or you can have someone use it on you. It’s particularly helpful for tight muscles in the neck, the quads, the calves, and the iliotibial (IT) band, a group of fibers that run along the outside of the thigh and help stabilize the entire leg during physical activity.

Foot Massage Balls: Even though it’s not a weight-bearing form of exercise, indoor cycling can lead to aching feet, especially when you’re pushing the pedals hard or shifting frequently between standing and seated positions. To the rescue: A textured mini-massage ball that you can roll under the soles of your feet, stimulating blood flow and soothing the nerves and muscles in your feet. In a pinch, using a tennis ball works well, too, though you won’t get the penetrating benefit of the textured surface that comes with a specialized massage ball.

Continue Reading