Sound advice for cyclists

11 June 2018

June is the month when cycling fever grips Surrey. Whether you’re taking part in the London to Brighton Ride on June 17, cycling in a local event or simply dusting off your old two wheeler for a quick spin, The Life Coach, Ben Short, has some sound advice.

Ever since the 2012 Olympic road race put Box Hill on the map, the county has gone cycle crazy. Luckily, we have some of the best and most scenic routes in the country.

A recent survey showed that Surrey is one of the top 10 areas in the UK for cycling with hotspots including the Surrey Hills, and around Farnborough and Fleet.

Although I am a keen runner, I recently took up road cycling so I can cover more ground and enjoy the scenery. There are some great pit stops – even the arduous Box Hill Zig Zag has a café and homemade cakes for when you reach the top.

If you have signed up to an organised cycling challenge, I have advice below for the final steps of your training.

If, however, you are now inspired to get on your bike for the first time in years, then start gradually. Getting back on a bike after a long absence will place new demands on your body.

Aim for a gentle ride around your local area to familiarise yourself with your bike and road safety precautions, then increase how fast and far you go by up to 10% each week. This will reduce your risk of injury.

If you are a nervous cyclist, relax your grip on the handles to avoid referred pain to back and shoulders from the tension in the hands and forearms. Keep the pace slow and gradual until you build up confidence.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, a warm up before setting off is essential. Use dynamic stretches - that is, stretching with movement - to warm up the key muscles that will be used.  Try walking lunges, heel flicks, calf raises and leg kicks to stimulate the muscles.

Ensure you have a water bottle handy on your ride - take a drink with electrolytes if you are cycling for more than 45 minutes. When exercising, our muscles contract in size, so cool down with some static stretches to re-lengthen worked muscles.

Preparing for a big cycle event?

Assuming you have got a solid few months of training behind you, the last few weeks before a big event should be spent taking it easier. This is called tapering and allows the body to recover for the big day:

Nutrition – eat a mixed diet with good carbohydrate/protein balance and avoid alcohol at least 48 hours before the race. The timing of the final main meal differs for every individual. Test this on your final rides to discover what works for you. If you feel light and dizzy, it’s likely that you ate too early before your ride. If you experience stitches or an unsettled stomach you may need to extend the timeframe.  Focus on slow release carbohydrates such as oats and wholemeal pasta.  

Keep hydrated: This helps to flush through toxins that may be present from the vigorous training sessions at the peak of your programme.  Aim to drink 1.5-2.5 litres of water (depending on weather and activity levels)  each day leading up to the event.

Sleep and rest: Keep vigorous activities to a minimum in the three days leading up to the event but go for a gentle 10 minute ride even up to the day before to keep the legs ticking over. Ensure you accompany this with your usual stretching routine pre and post ride. Definitely aim for an early night before the big day.

And don’t forget to cheer on the cyclists in the London to Brighton

Bike Ride on June 17 as a good third of the route is through Surrey.

Ben is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Advisor at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Personal Trainer, and Head Coach for Horley Harriers Running Club. He is available at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Povey Cross Road, Horley. Phone: 01293 771913.

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