As the new year starts, many of us resolve to make lasting changes in our lives. We strive to shed a few pounds, further our education, or begin a cycling program. If you have resolved to start cycling, you are not alone! Exercising, participating in sports, and becoming more active are some of the most popular resolutions each year. Here are some tips to keep you cycling from January to December.
- Baby, it’s cold outside! January isn’t necessarily the best time to start cycling in much of the country, but that doesn’t mean you should let cold weather stand in your way. Fortunately, there are ways to keep warm, even in the chilliest conditions. On cool days, add a base layer constructed out of breathable fabric to keep you both warm and dry. Vests and insulating jackets will help on even colder days. Shoe covers can provide warmth to your feet, and heavy socks can provide extra warmth. Hand and feet warmers can be tucked in your gloves and socks before you ride to keep you warm even in very cold weather.
- It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Many people are so eager to pursue their goals that they go overboard and push too hard, too fast. This increases your risk of injury and is overly taxing on your body, especially if you are not accustomed to exercise. Instead, focus on consistency. Start by riding four or five days a week until you start to feel fatigued. Do not push yourself too far, too fast. Take it slow, and although minor muscle cramps or aching are usually okay, slow down if you feel any lasting tenderness.
- Be realistic, and forgiving. If you skip a day due to weather conditions, don’t worry! Missing one ride is not going to affect your overall goals. Simply get back on your bike the next day and ride again. Also, do not expect that you will hit the road every day. Even the most seasoned cyclists take days off to relax and allow their body to heal. Your body needs time away from the bike to allow the muscle fibers to heal and grow. It is important to exercise moderation in all things.
- Incorporate rewards into your training program. Some people find intrinsic rewards appealing. For them, it is enough to know they are cycling regularly. The knowledge that they are winning in the cycling race (even if it just a race with themselves) is enough to keep them motivated. But many of us like to have an extrinsic reward. Allow yourself a treat periodically, perhaps once every 20 rides or once you have completed a set distance. It does not have to be large or expensive. Maybe you purchase a great new water bottle that matches your gear, or some new base gloves. Try not to splurge on something that will set you back in other areas. For example, if you are trying to lose weight as you ride, don’t reward yourself with an ice cream sundae.
- Track your progress. The best way to see progress is to create a visual representation of your cycling efforts. Strava is a great tool to track your rides, but you don’t have to go high-tech to keep good records. Simply charting your time on the bike and cycling distance is enough to get you started. Over time you can incorporate heart rate and perceived exertion level as well. A side note: be sure to detail changes that you make in your training conditions. If you notice an improvement or detect an injury, this will help you determine the culprit quickly.
- Don’t give up! We all experience setbacks. Maybe the flu kept you off your bike for a couple weeks, or perhaps you just got busy at work. No matter the reason, be gentle with yourself and get back on your bike. Whether you begin your “resolution” on January 1 or March 27 doesn’t make a difference to your body.
- Exercise proper safety precautions. Wear bright, reflective clothing and add lights to your bike, especially if you plan on riding during dawn, dusk, or late night hours. Learn more about how to ride your bicycle safely in a variety of different road conditions and how you can avoid cycling crashes, and wear a helmet at all times. Cycling crashes are far too common, and the injuries can be debilitating. If you are involved in a cycling crash, get the contact information of any witnesses as well as the person who struck you. Take photographs of the scene of the crash if possible and get medical attention, even if your injuries seem minor. Often we fail to realize the full extent of injuries until hours or even days after the crash when adrenaline levels decrease. If you ever are involved in a crash, be sure to have an experienced attorney on your side like the bicycle crash attorneys at Kass & Moses. We are available to take your call and answer any questions you may have about bicycle crashes.