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Get back to cycling and enjoy the health benefits

It’s a well-known fact that regular cycling is associated with many physical health benefits. A growing number of studies have shown that cycling provides psychological and cognitive benefits. However, if poorly done, cycling can have negative effects on one’s health. Here are a few tips that will help you draw health benefits from your cycling experience.

Take your time

A lot of cyclists are so excited about taking out their bikes in spring that they forget to warm up. They tend to start their ride too aggressively. It is preferable to take your time to warm up before reaching limit. It is advisable to begin every session with at least ten minutes of a heart rate of less than 110-120 beats per minute, then increase the intensity progressively. When you take time to warm up well, you get more from your ride and fatigue does not set in early. 

Eat well and in sufficient quantity.

Once the beauty of spring arrives, everybody, as well as cyclists, develops the “bikini body” syndrome.  However, no matter what, make sure you eat well especially before a long ride. As a rule of thumb, always have a regular meal that you are used to at least two hours before you ride your bike in the morning. Avoid trying something new. Try drinking at least 500 ml of water before heading out. If you are still hungry before leaving, make sure you eat a banana, two or three fig cookies or a bar of cereals or some fruits. Once you are on your way, make sure you consume 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates each hour, or drink a total of 500 ml of sport drinks every 20 minutes. You can also include a nutrition bar. Finally, after each of your sessions, you have to replenish your energy reserves as quickly as possible. Immediately after your ride, have some nutrients containing proteins and carbohydrates such as chocolate milk or yogurt.

— Take these with you —

Spend some time resting in bed

Did you know that we spend a third of our lives sleeping? It’s because sleep allows us to recharge our batteries and as a result restores our health. Good quality sleep for an appropriate length of time is necessary to recover from a strenuous cycling experience. Since sleeping needs vary from one person to the other - between 5 and 10 hours a night - it is difficult to determine exactly how much sleep each person needs. The rule of thumb is that during the training period you should give yourself about one extra hour of sleep at night.

5 tips on how to achieve restorative sleep and feel your best

  1. Reduce your caffeine consumption by fully savouring your morning coffee. Replace the midday coffee with some herbal tea.
  2. Sleep at regular intervals.
  3. Eat low-carb food like pasta, rice and cereals in the evening and avoid drinking liquids just before going to bed ... the urge to urinate at night can compromise your sleep.
  4. Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night if taken in very large quantities.
  5. Avoid highly intensive exercise or stimulating activities at the end of the day.  

Don’t overwork yourself.

Even if you have planned out a steady return to cycling, it is possible to overdo it. Over-training is defined as a set of physical, psychological and emotional symptoms associated with general fatigue causing a reduction in performance during training and even sometimes at work.   It is important to recognize the signs of over-training, however, ideally you want to understand and apply the previously mentioned principles. The symptoms of an insufficient recovery time are: overwhelming fatigue, legs feeling heavy, poor recovery, irritability, insomnia, decrease in appetite and even more frequent infections. If you have these kinds of symptoms, perhaps it is time to take a couple of days of rest.

You are now ready to return to cycling with no risks to your health. You can now take full advantage of the benefits of cycling.

Text written by Vélo Québec.