TMH Living Well: Preparing your body for bike season

The Memorial Hospital

If you rode in the “Where the Hell’s Maybell?” ride last Saturday, congratulations! You are likely back in biking shape. If not, don’t worry. Dust off your bike and make a plan to work in some rides, short or long, in honor of May as National Bike Month. Keep it up all summer and you’ll feel right at home watching the USA Pro Challenge events in Steamboat Springs come August!

If it has been a while since you’ve been on your bike, resist the urge to be a Weekend Warrior and hammering out a three-hour ride without preparation. Start slow and work your way up.

“If you haven’t ridden all winter, strengthen your legs first on a stationary bike, or warm up slowly. Ride a mile, then two, then five, and alternate the days you ride — one on, one off at first to build up to bigger rides. If you go gung ho from the start you might burn out fast or worse, injure yourself,” said Marshall Kraker, certified athletic trainer with The Memorial Hospital.

Always ride prepared. Bring a pump, patch kit, energy bar and plenty of water — and always wear your helmet, even on short trips around town.

“Accidents happen so randomly, and the first few times back out people don’t quite have their balance back and they may fall more easily,” Kraker said.

This is especially true if you like riding off-road. If you are new to mountain biking, practice skills on the pavement first or on wide-open dirt roads or trails.

“It’s like running on grass if you are used to pavement. It’s a change of turf that you need to get used to,” Kraker added.

Kraker recommends the “red rock area” on the south end of Moffat County High School to refresh your mountain biking skills. It’s a little hilly, but fairly simple terrain.

Maybe you’d like to try an organized ride this summer, but where do you start with training?

“The longer the ride, the longer you need to train. Plan your weekends for longer rides, and practice hauling the equipment you’ll need,” Kraker suggested.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation, which holds various rides, suggests training for a 50-mile road ride by preparing at least four weeks ahead of time at the minimum. Week one, aim for 5 to 10 miles; week two, 10 to 20 miles; week three, 20 to 30 miles and week four, 30 to 40 miles adding in tougher terrain as you advance. If you are new to cycling, start earlier and stretch the training out.

“Make sure you give yourself days off each week to avoid overuse injuries or muscle problems. Also, enlist a riding partner if possible,” Kraker said.

Having a buddy while riding not only comes in handy if there is an emergency, but you can help motivate each other to keep going. Also, keep your energy up with nutritional meals and snacks, and plenty of water.

“A long bike ride puts emphasis on the quad muscles in your thighs. They cramp up with dehydration and once cramps kick in it may be too late to drink water and recover,” Kraker said. “To avoid that, drink two glasses before and after the event, increase your water intake 48 hours before and after a ride, and carry a backpack with ample water.”

Replacing electrolytes with a sports drink and eating plenty of carbohydrates to regain energy and protein to support muscles against breaking down soon after the ride ends is also smart.

Finally, it’s a good idea to get clearance from your doctor if it’s your first long ride. Enjoy the trails!

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig – improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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