|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 www.acsm.org or
through the national office at (317) 637-9200.