The fours lads were ready to ride. Their backpacks were stuffed with water and sugary snacks. Their bikes were good to go. They planned to head off into the distance, but they didn’t know exactly where. What they did know is that they’d end up muddy, sweaty, hungry and ready for dinner.
This could be written about my 10 year-old self. Heading off for adventures with my tribe of little buddies from my street. Or it could be written about me last Friday, heading off for a Mountain bike ride with mates after a solid day’s work.
Mountain biking as playtime for adults
I adore Mountain Bike riding, and I am sure it is mostly because of its reminiscence to my childhood. For me, and the guys I ride with, Mountain Bike riding is not about competing, or personal records, or elevating my status on Strava. It is about adventure. It is about letting go of all of our adult roles and responsibilities for a few hours and becoming kids again. Getting muddy and soaked by rain when out on a forest trail is an ageless, timeless experience.
I am about to become a Father. We want to establish consistent routines and boundaries for our child so that they can grow up knowing we will be consistent, reliable and fair. I will also need to do a little bit of growing up, but I am excited to begin growing into my new role as Father.
But I also hope to keep reserving time for me to be child like. I want to keep having adventures, heading off into the distance and coming back muddy, sweaty and hungry, even if it is only for an hour or two every fortnight. We encourage active play for our children as we know it helps development of many important physical traits like agility, strength, aerobic fitness, and balance. We also know it promotes creativity, memory, decision-making and teamwork. As an adult, should I not also value these traits? As an Exercise Physiologist, of course I do. And I want to set an example for my child to spend time playing throughout their entire life also.
About the Author
Walking is easy right?
We learn to do it from around the first birthday mark and continue to work on it through our younger years until it becomes an action that we really think very little about. In this time we are building a base level of strength and function. When we want to go somewhere we just get up and our legs somehow get us from point A to point B. For the most part this serves us well and we can deal with the stresses placed on the body.
What happens when we choose to get out and be a little more adventurous?
Walking hills = Increased demand + increased need for strength
Let’s look at a popular local walk – Waterfall Gully up to My Lofty summit. The walk itself is fairly short, 2km to the top and a total of 475 metres of elevation gain.
Now let’s hypothesise that you weigh 65 kilos and are carrying a couple of litres of water, a snack and a camera. You need a camera to capture the waterfalls, abundant wildlife or the children/grandchildren running ahead. So you’ll have maybe a total of an extra five kilos (maybe 20 kilos if the grandchild gets tired and you have to carry them). So now you have 70 kilograms or more and you’re asking your body to haul you 475 meters into the sky, whilst covering 2 km of distance.
That’s a fairly big increase in stress that the body now has to deal with. What should you do now? Read on.
Add some strength training sessions to your week
Our bodies adapt to the stresses we place upon it and they do this quite efficiently. If you add increased load a few times per week (strength training) our bodies will adapt to these stresses and will become stronger and more able to cope with higher levels of stress. This results in a few things:-
- You will have a lower risk of injury
- A higher enjoyment rate during your walks
- You may even be able to keep up with the little ones.
Additionally, you also have the ability to test yourself more in some longer or more challenging walks. All in all, you will be more resilient and capable than before.
If you are unsure how to build strength, seek advice
Strength training can be beneficial to your health and well-being in many ways, if done incorrectly it can also potentially cause injury. If you are not experienced in strength training I would strongly advise you to seek professional advice and ensure you are both doing exercises correctly and that you have exercises prescribed that suit your specific needs.
Road cyclist fatigued!
Wow, I can’t believe its only 4 weeks until we leave for Melbourne to start our 1000km bike ride back to Adelaide for the Leukaemia Foundation’s RideasOne! It’s been a little while since my last post on the series – sorry! But I promise I’ve been on the bike!
In fact, since we last chatted, I have fallen in love with road riding. For a trail addict (running and mountain biking), I never thought I would put that in writing! But the growing sense of strength climbing up hills, the speed of a light and responsive bike flying down hills, and the camaraderie and great chats of group rides has been something that gets me out of bed in the early mornings with a smile on my face!!
Dealing with Fatigue
By now the kilometres on the bike are starting to really build, due both to a few months of riding, and the ‘pressure’ of time getting shorter and shorter ahead of us! So one thing I’m aware of personally, and I think also for my riding companions is that this is the time when little niggles may start to appear; in the form of tight muscles or joints, and perhaps little aches and pains as our bodies compensate for the increasing demands by tightening up.
So this is the time that looking after our muscles and joints becomes paramount to make sure that we get to the starting line healthy!! This ideally involves a warm up before we ride as well as a cool down, and even some other sessions of mobility and flexibility work during the week. The one negative thing about road cycling is the amount of time that is spent in a pretty fixed and flexed position. It is not unusual to spend 3-5hrs o the bike, especially during the weekend rides, and most of this is spent in repeated hip flexion with a flexed trunk and arms fixed to the handlebars… so there isn’t a lot of extension or rotation going on!! So ideally these warm up and cool down sessions focus on stretching and ‘mobilising’ a lot of these joints that are ‘stuck’ in very short ranges of motion for kilometres on end.
Warm ups are important
I know that for most riders a warm up entails nothing more than pulling on the lycra, pumping up the tires and perhaps taking it easy for the first few Ks of riding; and cool downs revolve around checking out our stats on strava! I also know that anything else for a warm up is a hard ask, as most rides need to start very early in the morning, so consider spending even 5minutes preparing the body for the fun work ahead, and focus more on the post ride mobility sessions – your body will love you for it!!
This will be particularly important for those of us doing a multi-day event such as the 7-day Ride-as-One from Melbourne to Adelaide, to ensure we give ourselves every chance to keep our bodies in good form as fatigue sets in!
An optimal mobility session should improve performance and reduce our risk of injury, while only taking 10-15 minutes to complete.
Ideal Mobility for Cyclists Routine
There’s a well established process for achieving best results during one of these sessions:
- Ideally one should start with some self ‘releasing’ (think about the type of ‘soft tissue’/massage type of treatment that a therapist would do to you). This is referred to as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). Any time you use a foam roller or some sort of ball on tight muscle tissue, you are performing some form of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). SMR is suggested to improve mobility at joint segments and the flexibility of specific muscle tissue.
- Once we have reduced the stiffness of specific muscle tissues through effective SMR, it is time to move onto stretching. These stretches are going to be short and to the point! with the intent to increase the length of short and stiff muscle tissue. By increasing the length of these specific tissues, we can increase the flexibility of that tissue AND increase the range of movement we have at the joints in which that tissue acts on.
The reason we want to keep these stretches short (~10-20 seconds) is twofold. Firstly, we want to reduce our total mobility time to something efficient and sustainable. Additionally, in our experience, short and strong stretches where we try and focus on ‘teasing out’ the muscle tissue are extremely effective.
The key areas we are going to focus on are:
- Hips – including hip flexors at the front and glutes posteriorly
- Quads and hamstrings
- Thoracic/rib cage region
Spend 10-15mins after your rides going through the program described in the PDF below and let me know if it helps!
iNform Cycling Mobility and Self Massage Program
If you would like more specific advice for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!
Adelaide is arguably Australia’s best city to be a cyclist in, and at the moment, with the Tour Down Under (TDU) in full flight, this is particularly the case! It is so good to see so many cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads, and in particular, the number of interstate riders that are here on organised tours.
I’m sure that with this activity going on, cycling apps like Strava would be seeing lots of kilometres adding up! For myself, and my ‘Leukaemia Foundation – Ride As One’ team members, starting to accumulate more kilometres on the bike is very important, as we have our 7-day 1000km ride in about 3 months!
One great way to beef up these kilometres can be achieved by commuting to work!
As you can see from the image above, my travel distance from home to work is a short 5.7km, which would by cycling standards, hardly count as a worthwhile effort to pull the bike out of the garage. But even such a short distance can add up to something significant! Using my stats as an example, if I commute to and from work over a week, each day contributes 11.4 kms and about 140m of elevation. Over the week, this is 57km and 700m of elevation! That’s a decent enough ride if you were to do it in one go, and contributes a solid base to the rest of my weekly distances! Not too bad at all!
Other than the kilometres on the saddle, I think commuting can provide a number of benefits:
- Easy roll of the legs – You know that heavy leg feeling you get the day after a big ride? I find that my morning commute works wonders to get the system moving again, increase blood flow to those heavy muscles, increasing delivery of nutrients, healing agents, etc, and clearing up the inflammatory waste products!
- Frequency of rolling the legs, including multiple rides in a day! As a flow-on from the point above, as we are increasing the kilometres, and especially when preparing for a multi-day event such as the Melbourne-to-Adelaide ‘Ride as One’, the capacity to back up ride after ride is very important! While the commuting distances may be short, they help to getting used to getting on the saddle and turning the legs after shorter than usual recovery periods.
- Specific training outcomes there are days when I’m pretty exhausted from the overall load of my regular riding + work, etc, so the commute home is an ‘easy’ ride. There are days when I want to hit some higher intensities, especially after some shorter but steeper hills, so I’ll take a little detour on my way home, and really the heart rate and lactate production up, to teach my system to deal with those stresses better; or it may be practicing some acceleration and faster work on flatter stretches of road… whatever it may be, knowing that you are not in the middle of a 3 hour ride, and that home is not too far away, may encourage you to open things up a bit more than you may normally do!
- Improved productivity at work! – There’s nothing better than getting to work wide awake, having gotten your heart and breathing rates up a bit, and benefiting from the physiological and hormonal benefits that this brings! There is strong research showing that a short bout of aerobic exercise increases your cognitive capacity (creativity, capacity to learn, etc) by up to 20%.
- Switch off from work before getting home to the family – one thing I have learnt, is that when I get home, my beautiful wife and kids don’t necessarily want me to be ‘there’, they want me to be ‘present’. My ride home gives me 10-15 mins of time to transition from work mode to family mode… hopefully making me a better husband and dad!
So there you have it friends. Don’t under value those short kms between home and work!