Getting back on the bike
If you need inspiration - and expert advice - to aid your return to cycling, running or swimming after a long absence then this is the article for you as coach Fiona Smart helps you kick-start a new regime.
For a healthy and long life with less disease, less pain and a body that allows you to really live, exercise is a fundamental component.
Many of us exercised before “C”, as in before our careers, before children and for some before cancer, or even before all three.
But life changes, we struggle to be everywhere we are supposed to be, we are exhausted, we are stressed, we are too sick, we are too busy. So a fundamental component for a better life gets dropped, forgotten and we sink into the daily drudge of just trying to survive.
But we need to fight back, we need regain our healthy bodies, we need to get back in control of our lives. To feel young, fit, healthy, happy, pain free. But where to start? How to get motivated and how to get the confidence to say, "yes I can do it!"
All I can say is yes you can.
During our time as coaches - with a particular focus on triathlon - we have seen many people, from all walks of life, who have the determination to get on a bike and succeed. We saw a cancer survivor at 59-years-old [pictured in main image above] decide in April to do 'RideLondon 100', a 100-mile bike ride, and she completed it at the beginning of August.
We have seen a lady with head injuries and a year off work slowly regain her balance and get back on the bike. We have run a beginner triathlon camp for the over 60s and watched them develop through the week to become triathletes. We have seen many adults, including a 69-year-old lady, learn to ride a road bike for the first time.
You may think these people where fit beforehand but that wasn't always the case; the cancer survivor had never done any sport in her life before and she fell off the bike initially before learning how to ride. So if she can do it, you certainly can.
Yes, starting again is always the hardest part so here's my step-by-step guide to helping with that process, whether it's triathlons in general or more specifically cycling, running or swimming:
1. Pick a goal, something you know you would get a kick out of doing. The goal should be far enough in the future that you have time to correctly build up to the distance without getting injured or overtired.
2. Learn or re-learn the correct technique. Using the example of the lady for RideLondon, she came for a week at the end of April to learn to ride a bike. Everyone thinks they know how to ride a bike, but to complete your goals you need to ride as efficiently as possible, whilst wasting the least amount of energy. You need to be able to corner, descend, climb, use your gears effectively, co-ordinate the correct muscles at the right time to perfect the pedalling action. To be set up on the bike in a position that allows you to feel relaxed, comfortable and be able to ride efficiently and be able to breathe. You need to learn to ride safely and understand how other road users react to cyclists and how to protect yourself.
3. Follow a training plan. Our RideLondon cyclist went on a periodised (varied training load) training plan. She works full time, so most of her riding was at the weekend.
To start she had a rest week after the camp, followed by a four-week rotating plan, with a build week, another build week, a hard week, and then a rest week. In the build weeks and hard week the total distance she rode was a 10% increase on the previous build or hard week. In the rest week she cut down to as much as she felt she needed to rest and recover (usually 30% of maximum) and sometimes she would just have a weekend off to have family time.
During the middle of this training time she found a 50-mile event to do, to give her the confidence that she could succeed. By the end of July she was up to distance and then she had an easier one to two weeks before the event.
She then had an amazing event and finished in a great time and all her family came out to cheer her on and were so proud of her. She had proven to herself she can live again and can do anything she sets her mind to. What a fantastic inspiration.
The benefits of getting on a bike are far more than just getting fit and healthy.
The tedium and stresses of life increase our cortisol levels, which saps our energy and reduces the levels or our sex hormones. We know, as we get older these are already reducing, so anything than dampens them further must be stopped!
Getting out and exercising reduces stress. Exercising requires good posture and good breathing. Good breathing helps us use our stomach muscles, acts as a massage to our internal organs and keeps our lungs and circulatory system healthy. Exercise increases our musculature. Good musculature increases our metabolism, gives us a longer life expectancy and improves our posture and keeps us looking fit and healthy. Good musculature means we are less likely to get the widows droop or loss of bone density. Exercise therefore means we will look younger with good posture and great skin. We will also sleep better and be happier with plenty of those feel-good endorphins.
So what are you waiting for? There is no time to waste, start feeling better, today!