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!
Today we start a new blog series, one very close to our heart. We strongly believe that running, and especially running trails, is one of the most beautiful expressions of a body that functions well. And so to get the most out of this beautiful activity, you need to make sure that your body is up to it!
Don’t run to get fit, but get fit to run!
This is a mantra that we believe in strongly. It really annoys me when I see posts on social media promoting running as a way to get fit… why? If we are honest, we know that running is an inherently hard activity to do. In fact, it’s one of the activities with the highest metabolic demands out there, primarily because your whole body is working while you ‘pound the ground’, only to be outdone in ‘aerobic’ demand by cross country skiing. We also know that over 50% of runners will get injured any given year!
So if you are unfit and deconditioned, running is not going to be an enjoyable activity at all! Needless to say, this is going to severely affect your chance of sticking to it. So we focus a lot of our professional work-time helping people get ready to run and make the most of it. Because when you are fit to run, you won’t want to stop!
So, every week we will release a new instalment to this series focusing on the many different aspects that can help you get the most out of your running, including:
- The effects of weight on joint loading and running time
- How to structure your weekly running to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment and gains
- How to program towards your event
- The importance of your running technique – is it capacity or skill?
- Myths and tips
- Does your Foot strike matter
- Cadence and the effects of modifying it
- The key areas of your body to focus on for improved running
- Feet and ankles – mobility and strength
- Knees – capacity to absorb gravity!
- Hips and pelvis – stable for power transfer
- Rib cage – a shock absorbing spring ad rotational controller!
- Arms – swinging for power, efficiency and direction
- Head – your rudder to success!
Plus I’m sure other topics will spring up as we hear your comments and questions!
In addition, we’d love to invite you to our online running community on Facebook – The iNform Running Studio where we can have discussions, Q&As, and we’ll share regular video clips with ‘live’ running tips while we hit trails!
Looking forward to chatting with you as we evolve this series. If you would like to have a more specific look at your running or discuss your training etc, feel free to contact us!
Ok, a true behind the scenes post coming up. I promised that this series was going to be a “warts and all” look at my training journey. So here’s the first big wart!
I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to this… but this morning I really didn’t want to get on my bike. In fact, when I saw that it was raining, and obviously “unsafe” for me to be riding through the hills, a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders… “WHAAAAAT??” but I love riding my bike. In fact, that’s all you hear from me on Facebook, right?
Well, it’s true. I certainly do love riding my bike, and when I’m out there, there’s very few places I’d rather be. What I have worked out though, is that I’m a bit too competitive for my own good. And this translates into knowing that every time I go out there, I’ll want to ride harder and faster than the previous time. And sometimes I just don’t look forward to that pain… It’s not unusual for me to dry-retch (sorry about the details!) at the top of a hill. And this is not because I’m too unfit to get up it, as I could certainly easily spin the legs up most climbs in Adelaide… it’s the fact that I feel I need to get a PB (personal best) time every single time!
This is not a good place to be on two counts:
- It’s unrealistic to expect that every single session (of anything!) is going to be a ‘best ever’ session! This applies to the intensity of it, the speed of it, or even the enjoyment of whatever it is you are doing.
- I don’t want to lose the joy, and the WHY I do what I do.
How to avoid that mental ‘overtraining’
So, to be clear, the issue is not that I was physically dreading the ride, but rather, mentally ‘pre-fatigued.’ While this concept is not new to me, and one I have been working on personally and have coached others through, today it really hit me that I have let it get away from me. So, here are a few things I plan to do, and if this resonates with you too, hopefully this also gives you a strategy:
- Firstly, I need to focus on the WHY: I train primarily because I love the feeling of exercise – of being outdoors and feeling my body working.
- The second reason why I train is that I enjoy the feeling of being fit and healthy. There are no medals or million dollar contracts at the end of this. It is simply for my well being.
- Considering the point above, constantly pushing oneself is never a good thing for health. It drains the body, it creates hormonal stress and increases the chances of injury and illness. I know this… so I just need to coach myself through it!
- I need to learn to just head out, be it running or riding, and get back to the joy of movement. Part of this is to disconnect myself from the tools that tell me how fast I’m going and how hard I’m working! While numbers are a good thing, and they help plan training in a clever and scientific way, they also need to allow for ‘easy days’. My best way to achieve that is to leave my GPS watch at home!
- I need to remember that everything needs cycles (not the bike kind! haha!), but waves and rhythms of work and play, challenge and recovery. This applies to life in general as well as physical training.
- Lastly, I will take advantage of ‘variety’. So to break the mental burden of riding today, I will go to the gym and do a mixed session, which will provide variety to mind and body.
Ahhhh… I feel better already. Thanks for hanging around and chatting. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Don’t feel bad if you need an easy day in your schedule!