Gear up your life
Cycling activity (indoor and outdoor) has increased markedly over the last 6 months in Europe, Australia and the USA. As offices, businesses, and schools closed to help slow the spread of the COVID-19, many people experienced greater flexibility in their schedules. In turn, they found time to bike regularly or start cycling for the first time. Bicycle sales expanded tremendously over this period due to the demand for equipment.
There are many health advantages to cycling. Cycling is a great exercise to increase leg strength and endurance as well as general aerobic capacity. In particular, it helps offset periods of sedentary behavior and the loss of incidental activity that has occurred during the virus pandemic. Because of the types of dynamic muscular contraction required during cycling (shortening/ concentric contractions of your quadriceps), most people do not experience soreness in the same manner that occurs with running exercise. [Running also involves lengthening contractions of the quadriceps that can lead to soreness — more about that in an upcoming blog!]. If you have knees that become irritated by weight bearing exercises such as running, cycling is an excellent alternative. For those that need assistance with leg power and confidence to ride hilly terrain, electric bikes are a great option.
Furthermore, physical distancing is not difficult to achieve when cycling. This activity can occur in the outdoors and indoors (with proper equipment).
More than just recreation
You can become a stronger, more confident, life-long cyclist by considering the following:
1. Engage in a targeted, structured and regular training regime that includes cycling, as well as strengthening and stretching exercises
2. Ensure you have enough rest and recovery time following a cycling ‘session’ (often overlooked)
3. Cycle with a friend
A structured training regime will ensure you don’t overreach. Too, it will help prevent the likelihood of suspending your cycling activity because it is unachievable or causes injury. It will, however, challenge you to improve performance and feel positive about your investment. No matter what stage you find yourself, focus on small incremental increases in exercise time and intensity. Small achievable steps will allow your body time to adapt to the increased physical demands. Moreover, it will encourage you to make time for exercise in your schedule. Sign up to learn about six steps that help you maintain a consistent exercise habit. Watch for the next cycling blog on how to structure a program.
Your muscles will adapt with targeted training sessions. The rest periods are critical to assist recovery and muscle adaptation to improve performance. This includes adequate sleep and nutrition. Poor recovery times can often lead to declining performance.
First, cycling is great therapy for rehabilitating knee injuries. It is repetitive work that will strengthen the quadriceps muscles which plays a key role in knee strength. Cycling action will not overstress the knee joint and is a safe way to rehabilitate and strengthen the knee joint.
Secondly, cycling can irritate neck and lower back injuries if not managed. The position on the bike – hunched forward and head titled up when you are riding — can be a major issue. If you have a chronic lower back injury that is aggravated by sitting for long periods, ease into cycling with care. Ensure that you stretch your hamstrings and hip joint muscles well before and after each ride.
Cycling is a wonderful activity – remember safety first on the road and avoid the punctures! Learn how to change a flat tire or have your phone handy to call someone to get you if needed!