The secret to all high energy sports is to swallow heaps of food and gallons of water. These basic race strategies apply equally to recreational riding and will boost your enjoyment untold.
Warm up: Start out with at least 5 minutes of easy riding on the flats. Straining your cold, tight muscles will leave you vulnerable to injury.
Once you've warmed up, hop off your bike and stretch. Don't bounce on your muscles - just a nice progressive extension. For each exercise hold for 20 secs and repeat 3 times
- Pace Yourself: Ride at a speed you are comfortable with in relationship to the terrain and how far you plan to go. This helps ward off the dreaded 'bonk' (your body runs out of energy and just stops).
- Hydrate: When exercising hard, you lose heaps of water and minerals. Keeping your muscles hydrated is the most important thing you can do to keep on keeping on. So drink lots - the rule of thumb is 1 litre per hour! You'll have to force yourself to consume that much - not just sipping when you're thirsty. Pure water is fine - those swank sports drinks offer extra energy if you need it. For the really epic rides - totally saturate your muscles by drinking heaps the night before - at least 2 litres of water. You've had about enough when you are peeing clear.
- Eating: While on the go, snack every 30-45 mins on dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, bananas etc). Avoid chocolate and nuts - chocolate creates an energy roller coaster which you have to feed like a drug dependency, and nuts are hard to digest. For lunch take on lots of carbohydrates (also minimise fat and avoid protein). Cold spuds are excellent. Fancy sports bars deliver a welcome energy surge when needed - especially nice at the end of the day.
- Warm Down: Cruise the last couple of kilometres to let your heart and lungs return to normal operating mode. Then when you finish repeat the warm up stretches. Your muscles are super warm and malleable - a great time to stretch them.
- Hydrate and Eat: You've got roughly 30-60 minutes when your body goes wild rebuilding itself. Huge quantities of food and water fuel this process. After a hard ride drink at least 1-2 litres of water and feed yourself with carbos and fructose (like dried fruit). Avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol.