It’s not the workout that makes you stronger, it’s the recovery afterwards. Specifically, it’s the subsequent sleep that lets your body make post-training adaptations. The fact is, improving our sleep quality and routine can, over time, have a transformative effect on our cycling performance. The humble nap is an undervalued performance-booster. Nocturnal sleep is the foundation, but naps are a valuable aid on the road to mental and physical recovery.
Spend any time with a pro rider and you soon learn that they’re not only excellent at riding a bike, they’re also exceptional at napping.
We are paying more and more attention to aero, conditioning, flexibility, weight loss and all the rest, but sleep is an area largely untapped. Elite sports sleep coach Nick Littlehales said: “Many people just take sleep for granted; they don’t see it as integral to performance. But a lack of sleep can suppress your cardiovascular performance, injury recovery time, stamina, mood, and motivation. It’s very serious and all adds up.”
Sleep deprivation causes an increase in the perceived effort for the same power output and a decrease in maximal strength – hindering both endurance and all-out sprints. One reason for this is because insufficient sleep causes a decrease in your muscle glycogen content, that is, your muscles’ main fuel source. Of particular relevance in these times, a sleep deficit also suppresses the immune system.
Sir Dave Brailsford’s ‘marginal gains’ philosophy has become contentious in recent times, but sleep was an important component; British Cycling brought in Littlehales ahead […]