Spring has sprung, time to get back on the road!
Now we're coming out the other side of (what's been a very, very, very long) Winter, it’s time to look forward to getting out of the pain cave and hitting the road again…….
The winter months aren’t overly conducive to maintaining a high standard of fitness and maintaining our peak summer shape! The rise in popularity of indoor training with Zwift and the like, has allowed the amateur cyclist to continue their training indoors, but with the better weather comes the move from indoors to outdoors and we want you to be ready! So here are some hints and tips to get you road ready for the warmer sunny days in the weeks to come.
Maintaining a healthy body
The end of winter often sees many people pick up coughs and colds so protecting yourself from illness is often down to basic hygiene, with the most important being the frequent washing of our hands. This has now become second nature to most people given the rise of COVID-19 but it’s important that this simple act can help protect us from a number of illnesses, including the common cold.
With the number of illnesses around (including COVID-19) at this time of year, there is focus quite rightly on our immune systems and ensuring these are being maintained. Getting enough sleep (8 hours is widely recognised as what’s required for an adult) and ensuring your diet contains a wide range of immune-supporting nutrients. Meals and snacks should contain fruit and/or vegetables to help keep your vitamin and mineral intake topped up along with boosting your diet with vitamin & mineral supplements like VitxCycle! Our Protection capsule has got your back here!
The bleak midwinter can often see all good intentions of maintaining a healthy diet go out the window! An increase of sugary and carbohydrate-dense food along with an uptick in alcohol consumption are both common during Winter. Now is the time to reduce our consumption levels of this to benefit both our health and waistline.
Having a whole grain cereal/bread or porridge, which allow for a slower more even release of energy, instead of a sugary cereal with the quick sugar high followed by the associated crash will get your day off to a better start. Sugar, when used sparingly can play an important part in diet, such as when we need a quick energy boost (think energy gel on a ride), but not as the basis for you most important meal of the day! Try to cut down your sugar intake by swapping canned fruit in natural juice rather than using syrup or any other sweeteners. You can also try eating whole fruit and drinking water (how amazing is water, but that’s another blog!) instead of drinking fruit juice or sugary energy drinks, this will also help fill you up, making it less likely you’ll over-eat or snack (another blog!!!)
In this day and age of heavily processed foods it’s important to be aware of what we’re putting in our bodies, this is especially the case when it comes to sugar as so many foods have this added into them. So always check the ingredients for hidden sugars (even in savoury foods) so look out for the following: glucose, dextrose, invert syrup, corn syrup, brown or Demerara sugar, glucose syrup, lactose, maltose, hydrolysed starch or treacle.
If you want to be super sure of having the cleanest diet then nothing beats cooking from scratch with fresh foods that are now in season…..spring greens, new potatoes…yum……you can read more about the benefit of a health diet in previous posts on our blog…
Look after your knees
There’s a condition known to cyclists and certain physios as ‘spring knee’. Nagging frontal knee pain often occurs at the start of the season when riders have suddenly increased the volume or intensity they are riding…..yeah like we do this!!!! This is a soft tissue injury that can have several different causes: muscular weakness or imbalance (normally in the quads), poor technique or biomechanics and an increase in load on muscles not yet conditioned to training.
The extra miles or harder efforts may aggravate an underlying cause that had been lying dormant, through the winter or maybe even longer! To help avoid this outcome use your common sense and start building up slowly. If you head out for a 100-mile ride after a winter of inactivity, you’d expect to ache and suffer pain. A gradual build-up to longer rides is obviously far better for your body. If you do develop aches, get them checked out early (a good physio who understands the mechanics of cycling is always worth having in your address book), and ease back a bit on your riding until a cause has been established.
Also, a great tip is to keep your knees warm! That means sticking to tights, three-quarters or knee-warmers until temperatures are in the high teens….or at least above 10 degrees which is our cut off for bibs! There is very little flesh around your knees to insulate them from cold weather; the drop in temperature can aggravate tight muscles and exacerbate any knee pain.
Look after your bike
It’s not just you that needs to be prepared for spring. You bike does too. Winter riding is hard on your machine; road grit, salt, debris and appalling weather means a lot more wear and tear than in summer months.
When the weather is horrible, the thought of cleaning your bike in the cold or hanging around down in the shed/garden/garage/street/front room fixing things is less desirable, so maintenance is often allowed to slide. It’s OK, you can admit this, who wants to be outside cleaning their bike after a wet ride when you could be in a hot bath drinking tea?
For a better spring riding experience give your bike a thorough service, checking tyres, drivetrain and cables for wear and tear. Now would be a good time to replace that rusty chain and lubricate that cassette. Taking off mudguards and light brackets, putting on lighter tyres and even refreshing your bar tape can make your bike feel like new when you go out for your first spring ride. And if all that sounds like too much hard work, outsource this to your local bike shop who will be happy to do it for you…..for a cost!
Obviously if you are lucky enough to have a winter and a summer bike, then it’s a matter of just dusting down the summer bike, checking the tyres and off you go……oh and doing all the maintenance stuff to your winter bike before putting it away for a well-deserved rest!
Do some structured training!
When you first get back on the bike, it’s normal to feel sluggish and slow (unless of course you spent a devoted winter on the turbo and so come spring time you’ll be laughing). The speed and agility of last summer will seem like a distant memory and you’ll wonder if you’ll ever recover that fitness again. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there — and form does come back.
The first thing to do is add in some structure to your rides via tempo or sweet spot riding. These efforts need last only five to 20 minutes but will need you to focus to sustain an effort that, though uncomfortable, is manageable. At first, you won’t feel very fast but over time these sessions will be the building block of your fitness. They will gently ‘nudge up’ your lactate threshold from beneath.
You could also go the other way and do some really hard but short efforts to help pull your threshold up from above. Now popularly known as HIIT (high intensity, intermittent training) these sessions, while short, are tough, so not to everyone’s liking. You can’t really see the scenery when your eyeballs are out on stalks, but HIIT really works.
The last couple of winters (and lockdowns) have seen a huge trend towards indoor training; hours spent on Zwift (other programmes are also available) have increased in popularity, and the newly coined phrase ‘trainertainment’ and the gamification of training represents the new levels of interest in virtually-enhanced turbo work. The problem is that, while training indoors using all these gadgets might help maintain or even increase our fitness, it doesn’t do much for our bike-handling skills.
After a winter of having your bike fixed firmly to the spot, your first attempt at cornering might come as a shock. Skills do come back pretty quickly but you may be surprised how stiff and wooden you feel on your first ride of the spring.
Just because your legs are strong and fast from the turbo, don’t go flat-out, as you may find your engine’s capabilities exceeding your handling. Start with a few steady rides and actively concentrate on skills such as cornering, descending and track-standing to make sure your balance and technique are up to scratch. Once you combine these skills with your turbo-boosted fitness, you’ll be ready to fly….well that’s the theory!
The fabled evening ride!
One of the first landmarks of spring is leaving work/home office/spare room/kitchen table in the daylight after the clocks have gone forward and having time to get a ride in before it gets dark. At this time of year, you feel like you have been given an extra chunk of day to play with, even if you might not have any extra hours to spare. If you can, take advantage and plan an evening ride, along with the obligatory re-hydration stop (once we are allowed again).
Though the air may still feel cool, and the weather is unpredictable, enjoy riding until dusk — appreciating the sunset and scenery instead of commuting home with just the small patch of light from your handlebars as company.
Food for thought
Spring is a time of renewal, hope and new life. This springtime these characteristics have never been more apt as we emerge from a national lockdown and start to appreciate and enjoy the freedom of getting outside on our bikes and exploring those places we used to take for granted like our favourite coffee stop, stretch of road, climb, decent, riding buddy.
So this spring make sure you look after yourself, your bike and others as we once again look forward to the coming ride-outs by yourself, in pairs and (my favourite) in groups…..