• Joan Medlen

Biking Season: It’s here for some!

The picture at the top of this blog was taken while biking on the trail by the Columbia River on Marine Drive in Portland, Oregon. I am fortunate. I can go riding and enjoy amazing scenery.

Below is a piece I started last month when it was snowing and I was longing to go out on my bike again. I felt I needed to preface the post because today it is easily 60 degrees and we are surrounded by blue sky. If I get a chance, I will grab the camera for a photo from the top of Walking Woods Drive. You can see both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood.

Remember the Core

As the snow falls and the ground freezes, cyclists typically have one of two thoughts:

  1. I still have time… and

  2. Will the winter never end?

Regardless of what you are thinking, winter is the perfect time to start getting ready for the 2008 biking season. There are a few things you can do to make the start of the season easier.

Work on the Core

Your “core” is a term fitness professionals use to describe the core muscles providing strength and stability (primarily in your trunk and shoulders). It is also important to work on core eating habits that will give you a boost when the weather changes and it’s time to hit the road again. Both are very important to a great cycling season.

Core Muscles

It’s a common for people to believe that the majority of your power in biking comes from your legs. However, if your upper body or your shoulders fatigue, the work to continue is much harder. A strong core not only helps with endurance, but power. Strong lower abdominal muscles add to the strength you need to pull the down-pedal leg up. A strong torso keeps your body from lilting from side-to-side as you pedal. Strong chest, upper back, and abdominal muscles reduce the fatigue from leaning over the handlebars as you ride long distances.

There are myriad ways to strengthen your core. If there is a pilates studio near you, give it a try. Pilates is amazing for building core strength. Because form is key to the power of pilates, a DVD or a few sessions with a pilates instructor can be very helpful. One studio I can recommend is ReForm Pilates.

If going to a studio is too pricey, consider purchasing an exercise ball to build core strength. Some exercises that can be done at home are here: http://exercise.about.com/cs/abs/l/bl_core.htm .

No matter how you work on strengthening your core, form is key. So be mindful of using good posture and form as you do the exercises.

Core Eating

Make the transition from indoor training to outdoor riding easy by paying attention to some core eating habits now. Regardless of what your exercise regime has been or will be in these weeks before you get back on the saddle, here are some core eating habits that will begin to shape your body’s metabolism for fueling your ride:

  1. Eat low fat. Cull your diet so that no more than 30% of your calories come from any type of fat. Doing this helps your body run more efficiently, which is important for long rides.

  2. Eat at least every five hours. Spread your eating (and calories) over the course of the day so you do not go more than five hours without eating. This, too, prepares your body to work efficiently so you don’t lose steam when on a long ride. Waiting more than five hours between meals or snacks (except when asleep) can cause blood sugar drops and over hunger that then lead to overeating later.

  3. Drink. Water is the drink of choice, of course (sorry!). Unless you are exercising aerobically for more than an hour at a time, water is all you need. Remember, sport drinks and energy drinks all have significant calories along with the electrolytes.

Of course, no one can be perfect. These are some ideas of things you can do to enhance your cycling season start. Truth be told, you probably won’t notice a difference until your third or fourth ride. Why? Because, at least for me, the just getting out there the first few times is enough to make my day.

©  2008 Joan Guthrie Medlen, RD, LD
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