Image: Jen Charrette Climbing the Stelvio in Italy
Cycling season is upon us and it’s time to get energized and think about new approaches to your health and well-being— to change, to grow, to challenge yourself. With that in mind, here are some tips on getting your body ready from head-to-toe.
First set some goals for your cycling. Goals help you maintain motivation, especially one that’s within reach. Maybe you want to do your first triathlon or commit to a new PR. Reach out to friends or cycling groups to ride or train together. Need inspiration? The Cyclist’s Bucket Listby Ian Dille has ideas for you. Or search online for websites related to cycling.
Your bike set-up is important to keep your back healthy, but an incorrect bike fit isn’t likely to be the only factor in lower back pain. What is? Well, muscle fatigue may play a role. The back and abdomen are the weakest link for the majority of cyclists. Cyclists have strong leg muscles but don’t have the core and back strength to support their leg power. If the core is weak you lose power to the pedals. To strengthen your core and back you’ll need to do some work off the bike. The best thing you can do is stretch. The CoreStretch was originally developed for Physical Therapists to help patients achieve a lower back stretch by using the body’s natural traction. It’s now available for personal use and eliminates the guess work while stretching.
You would think that the evolving technology in cycling shorts would eliminate the need for a protection barrier to prevent saddle sores. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many situations, such as: long rides, indoor training, where you're on the saddle a lot; and after being off the bike for an extended period. In these cases, you need a barrier. One option is chamois cream but these are messy and also don’t last long. Using a barrier roll-on, like ButtShield, provides a non-messy application that is waterproof and lasts your entire workout. It also contains anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ingredients to help reduce the likelihood of skin infections. Don’t forget that basic hygiene helps too, like getting out of your shorts and into the shower as soon as possible.
Want to help those muscles work together? Focus on building off-the-bike leg strength, stretch after your ride, and get deep muscle massages frequently. An affordable way to get a the impact of massage is with a tool like the RangeRoller. This is a do-it-yourself massager that prevents injuries, aids in recovery, and increases blood flow. I use mine in the evenings for a few minutes while watching TV. And lastly, what about your feet? We tend to forget about our feet until they fail and start to cause us pain. But there may be some simple preventative solutions to keep them healthy and increase your cycling power. First, invest in a trusted cycling shoe that fits. A good shoe will effectively transfer power to your pedals and keep your feet comfortable and supported. To keep your feet pain free and dry, use a blister prevention product like BlisterShield in your socks. I find BlisterShield especially useful in damp or hot conditions to prevent foot sores. Following these simple but effective head to toe steps will get your body in shape now and keep you pedaling all summer long.