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An Ounce of Prevention
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By Carol Torgan, Ph.D.

Now that the weather is nice and there's plenty of daylight, the roads beckon. It's tempting to just jump on the bike and go, and once finished, to load up the bike and head for food. It's also tempting to string together as many rides as the weather will allow, to make up for all the rainy days. But haste makes waste, in the form of injuries. By taking a few simple precautions and listening to your body, you can stay healthy and happy all season long.

Warming up
What do a sports car and your body have in common? They're both high performance machines that can cost you a lot of money and misery when they break down. Just as you wouldn't take your car out onto the highway on a cold day without first warming it up, you also shouldn't take your body for a fast ride without a proper warm up. This step is crucial to avoid injury and to improve cycling performance. A warm up enhances your speed and power by increasing blood flow and muscle temperature.

A warm up is necessary for your heart as well as your legs. Sudden strenuous exercise can produce abnormal ECG patterns (a measure of the heart's electrical activity). This can be prevented by starting out slowly. You're adequately warmed up and ready to shift into high gear once you've broken a sweat.

Can you touch your toes? Does it hurt just to think about it? Good flexibility is important and can reduce the likelihood of injuries. Unfortunately, you must "use it or lose it". To be flexible, you need to stretch regularly =96 at least 2-3 times a week or daily if possible. The best time to stretch is after exercise, when your muscles are warm. If it's not convenient to stretch in a parking lot after a ride, stretch when you get home. You should stretch slowly (don't bounce) until you feel mild discomfort (not pain), and hold for at least 15 seconds, preferably 30-60 seconds. Try to relax and breathe deeply. Cyclists should pay particular attention to stretching the neck and shoulders, the back, and the legs, including the calf/Achilles tendon, quadriceps (front of the thigh), and hamstrings (back of the thigh). If you aren't sure what specific stretches to do, pick up a book or video, or talk with a staff person at your health club.

Do you pride yourself on being an over-achiever? Do you cycle competitively? Do you live to cycle? If not, skip this section. If you answered multiple affirmatives, underline this paragraph. Over-training is a great way to ruin a season. Your body can't handle excessive training, and it will try to let you know in subtle ways. If you aren't paying close attention, by the time you recognize the problem, it will be too late. Classic symptoms include an elevated resting heart rate, chronic fatigue, abnormal sleeping and eating patterns, and decreased performance. You may think you have the flu. If your cycling performance is suffering, you may attempt to train harder to compensate. But you'll just get worse. Keep a training diary and record your resting heart rate and how you feel. If things deteriorate, back off until the symptoms are gone.

Sports Medicine Meeting Notice
For those of you with more than a passing interest in health and fitness, the annual national meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine is going to be held this year at the Baltimore Convention Center. ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science association in the world. The meeting will be May 30-June 2 and non-members are welcome to attend. The meeting features more than 20 concurrent sessions covering topics that range from case studies of athletic injuries to nutrition to sports biomechanics to molecular signaling in muscle. Information is available at or through the national office at (317) 637-9200.
more Ride Schedule

C * 30 * MD * 9:00 AM * Leave from VMP to join Friday Lunch Ride * Veirs Mill Park (VMP)

CANCELED CC * VA * 10:00 AM * Elk Run and BLT Clockwise * Brentsville Park (BVP) *45°

Featured Members
Linda B. KolkoLinda is the C Ride Coordinator for MD & DC.