Become a Better Cyclist: Strengthening Exercises for Cyclists

Cycling is very unique in that it puts your body in the same position and has you performing the same motion thousands of times every time you ride.

Your body will adapt to this stimuli and strengthen your muscles to produce maximum power output in certain ranges of motion. It’s great for cycling, but it may be less than optimal from a every day health perspective.

For example, riding will put your back into flexion; leaning forward and bending your back. Therefore, strengthening muscles that pull the back into a neutral position could be a good idea to avoid becoming hunched over.

All of these exercises will be possible to do at home! Try to aim for 3-5 sets of the same number of repetitions. You don’t want to burn yourself out completely, so try to stop when you feel like you could do two more reps: this is more effective for muscle growth than going to failure, and should allow you to repeat the same set a couple times.

Without further ado, let’s look at our top 5 strengthening exercises that will make you a better cyclist!

Glute bridge

Your glutes are some of the most powerful muscles in your body – or at least they should be. As part of the muscles that extend your hips and let you stand up straight, glutes can often become weakened if you have a sedentary lifestyle or spend most of your workday sitting down.

Glute bridges are a great way to strengthen one of the key muscles in cycling. Better yet, you can do it at home – right now – with no additional equipment needed. Simply lie down on your back, plant your soles on the floor shoulder width apart, and use your glutes to drive your hips up.

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Try to keep your shins as perpendicular to the floor as you can. Engage your core to keep your upper body straight, and that’s it! Single leg glute bridge, the more advanced version, is a great option if you find glute bridges too easy: do this by keeping one leg straight and in line with your torso, and the other planted as normal.

Bent-over row

Since most of our time spent on a bike is leaning forward, it’s important to strengthen your back muscles so that we can avoid getting hunched over. The bent-over row is an excellent exercise that targets the middle and upper part of your back while using your core to stabilise your position.

Place your right hand and right knee on an even surface – you could use two chairs, a table, or even a sofa or bed. Engage your core to keep your back straight, and keep your neck in a neutral position. Grab your dumbbell with the left hand and use your back muscles to drive your elbow back. Simple as you like.

If you don’t have access to dumbbells or kettlebells at home, there are plenty of ways to improvise! A three litre milk bottle (or two) could be plenty for a beginner. You could also put a couple in a backpack or use a bucket – just be careful not to spill it! Resistance bands are also a great option here.

Russian twist

Cycling requires a strong core. A lot of time spent on the bike is with your torso in front of your centre of gravity, and strong abdominal muscles will help balance your body. Core exercises can be quite tricky; sit-ups can sometimes be a bit hard on your back, while lying leg lifts can end up using your hip flexors – muscles that already see plenty of use when pedaling – more than your abs.

Few exercises develop strong abdominal muscles like the Russian twist, though. Here’s how you do a Russian twist: simply sit down on the floor with your feet out in front of you. You can keep your heels on the ground if you like, but try not to put too much weight on them. 

Start by holding your clenched fists above your hips. Twist to one side, touch the ground lightly and then do the same on the other side. Add weight if you find this too easy! Dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls are optimal, but you can also be creative and fill an empty milk bottle with water. Taking your feet off the ground will make it harder, as you will need to use your core muscles to stabilise your body.

Push-ups

Now that we have exercises that cover your back, glutes and core muscles, it’s time to cover the chest and triceps. Although they aren’t directly related to pedaling power, it’s important to ensure that no muscle groups are underdeveloped. Strong triceps will also make it easier to ride for longer periods, as strong arms help support your bodyweight.

Place your hands under your shoulder joint or slightly outside. Keep your core engaged and straight, and lower yourself down before pushing up. If you find it hard to know how low you need to go, you can put a tennis ball or orange beneath your chest!

There are a lot of push-up variations available if you find them too easy: deficit push-ups, pike push-ups or using a weighted backpack are great options if you are more advanced.

Dumbbell deadlifts

Deadlifts are a fantastic way to train your whole posterior chain in one exercise: you’ll feel this in your back, glutes and hamstrings as well as your abs. It’s deceptively simple, but slow and controlled movements will still make this one challenging.

Simply stand up straight with weights in your hands. Unlock your knees and pull your hips backwards to start the movement. “Paint your legs” with the weights on the way down to keep your centre of gravity over your midfoot. Stop when you feel your hamstrings stretched far enough that you can’t go lower without using your knees; usually just below the knees.

Too simple? Try one-legged for an added challenge! Yes, this does require weights, but getting creative with a bucket of water, a bag of cement or two milk bottles is an option if you don’t have dumbbells or a kettlebell available.

This blog is a part of our Become a Better Cyclist series. You can find the previous entries here:

Did we miss your favourite strengthening exercises? Let us know on Facebook!

 

 

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.


Become a Better Cyclist: Learn to Stretch, part 2

Cycling is very tough, no doubt about it. A lack of flexibility will make any ride much more uncomfortable, regardless of your type of bike and how long you ride for. Shortened, tight muscles pull and restrain your body into unfavorable positions, causing discomfort and poor balance.

Let’s look at some fantastic stretches that all cyclists should have in their arsenal!

Read part 1 in this series if you are new to cycling and stretching!

#1: Spine twist

Spine twists put your shoulders in a neutral position and help loosen up your spine, back, neck and abdominal muscles. Stretching out the back is as important for road cyclists hunched over handlebars as it is for office workers hunched over a keyboard.

Start by lying flat on your back. Stretch your arms out perpendicular to your body, keeping the palms up. Kend your knees up while keeping your ankles together, then roll your knees to one side while you turn your neck and look the other way. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.

#2: Quad stretch

Your quadriceps are responsible for the bulk amount of force being generated when you push off with your feet, whether that be on pedals, running, jumping or doing lower body strength training. Tight quads will prevent you from fully straightening your leg while pedaling, and may affect your rhythm and balance on the bike.

This stretch is straightforward and simple, but it will probably be pretty uncomfortable if you aren’t used to stretching. Stand up straight and grab your ankle behind you. Holding onto a wall or chair with the other hand makes it easier to stay balanced.

You should pull your ankle enough that you feel your muscles stretch, but not so much that it becomes difficult to stand with straight hips.

#3: Hip flexor stretch

Your hip flexors sit at the front of your hips and are part of the muscles that lean your torso forward and move your knees up towards your chest when you ride. These muscles are constantly working when we pedal, and giving them a stretch is important to keep you from getting hunched over.

Get into a kneeling position with one leg in front of you. Leave the trailing foot on the floor. Drive your hips forward, and you will feel the stretch at the front of your hips. You can play around and get a feel for how much forward lean you want!

#4 Cat cow stretch

This stretch is excellent for your back, neck and abdominal muscles. Since we spend our time on the bike leaning forward, it is important to have a stretch that moves us in the opposite direction!

Start by getting on all fours: hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Inhale and move into the cow pose by flexing your lumbar spine and dropping your abs and ribs cage towards the floor, pull your shoulders back and look up.

Hold for a few seconds. Exhale and engage your core muscles to move into the cat pose, pushing your hands into the floor and dropping your head in between your arms.

#5 Glute and piriformis stretch

Obviously, your quads do an awful lot of work when you pedal – but so do your glutes. They are some of the most powerful muscles in your body, and are part of the muscles that are responsible for extending your hips. Tight glutes are often part of the reason why some experience lower back pain, but stretching them out can help with that.

Image credit: welovecycling.com

Lie flat on your back and put your left ankle on top of your right knee. Clasp your hands behind the right leg. You shouldn’t need to do anything else before you feel the stretch across your left glute. Hold for 20-30 seconds (or more) before switching sides. This can also be done in a seated position, but most people will probably find it easier lying down.

There you have it, our top 5 stretches for cyclists! Did we miss your favourite stretch? Let us know on Facebook!

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.


Become a Better Cyclist: Learn to Stretch, part 1

Cycling is a great way to exercise, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s also very unique in that it puts your body in the same position and has you performing the same motion thousands of times every time you ride.

Over time you may start feeling stiff as increased muscle tone will lead you to being less limber than you used to be. Stretching and increasing your flexibility will give you more freedom of movement – both on and off the bike.

How & when should I stretch?

Much has been said and written about whether it’s better to stretch before or after a workout. They’re both great, but you need to take some things into consideration!

If you’re stretching before exercising, you should do dynamic stretching: slow and deliberate movements. Since your muscles haven’t been warmed up yet, you should avoid any serious pulling, as you may be at increased risk of tearing muscle fibres apart. Instead, incorporate movements. For example, you could do walking lunges instead of kneeling hip flexor stretches (more on these later!).

This blog will focus on static stretching, the kind that most people will be familiar with; pull a leg or an arm in a certain direction and hold it there. The key is to do it after exercising, when the muscles are warmed up and have increased blood supply.

You’ll want to do each stretch for at least 20 seconds, but how long is too long? There’s probably no such thing, but you definitely reach a point of diminished returns after around 90 seconds. Keep in mind too, you need to prioritise good form over how long you stretch for. 20 seconds of good form is better than 40 seconds of poor form!

How hard should you stretch? It’s hard to answer this question because there are no objective metrics to go by and stretching will feel different to everyone. As a rule of thumb, you should take it to a point where your muscles are giving you resistance, but you shouldn’t push into pain. You may feel some discomfort, especially if you are new to stretching, but you should not feel any sharp, sudden or intense pain.

The basics of stretching

  1. Dynamic stretching before working out is a great warm-up.
  2. Keep static stretching limited to after a ride.
  3. Focus on correct form and gradually increase how long you stretch for.
  4. Feel the burn, but don’t push into pain!

Looking for an end-of-trip facility in Brisbane CBD? At cycle2city, we offer a free 7 day trial with no commitments. Come by our King George Square location for a tour of the facilities, or sign up for a free trial on our website!

We offer 24/7 premium cycling facilities in the heart of Brisbane, and have state of the art bike storage, an in-house bicycle workshop, 400+ personal lockers, plenty of shower cubicles and fresh towels supplied daily.

Want to learn some specific stretches? Click here to read part two in our series, where we will go through some of the best stretches for cyclists!

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.


Cycling: Social Distancing Built In!

The coronavirus pandemic is still locking down large parts of society, and gyms have all been ordered to close. Ways to exercise are more or less limited to runs, walks, bodyweight exercises and cycling!

Cycling is a fantastic way to get your legs going and heart pumping! Here are some key reasons why you should begin cycling today!

  • Social distancing

One of the best things about cycling right now is that social distancing is built in! There’s only one person on your bike, and keeping a 1.5m distance to your friends is easy as can be!

  • No need to touch any foreign surfaces

With coronavirus spreading through droplets that can survive on public surfaces, it is great for your peace of mind that cycling doesn’t require you to touch any surfaces. If you want, you can simply wipe down your handlebars and bottle after a ride, and you’ll be all set for your next workout!

  • Fantastic workout – minimal equipment

Cycling is a fantastic way to exercise for a couple of different reasons. First of all, it is an excellent cardio workout, and keeping your lungs strong and healthy has never been more important! It is also extremely adaptable, and you can just go at your own tempo. Last, but not least, it doesn’t require much equipment. Just a bike and a helmet! No need to worry about special shoes, outfits, bottles, or any other pieces of equipment that other sports require.

  • Less pollution

By cycling, you help do your bit for the environment, which is still very important. We haven’t forgotten about the bushfires and smoke that strangled large parts
of our lucky country just a few months ago, and neither should you. It is still important to reduce our carbon footprint!

  • Permanent changes to commuting

The current nationwide lockdown had led to a 50% decrease in traffic and a drop of 60% usage of public transport. Co-director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, Julian Bolleter, believes that a perception of risk will remain over public transport, which could lead to permanent changes to the buses, trains and ferries on offer in metropolitan cities.

It seems increasingly likely that our lifestyles may be permanently altered by this pandemic, even after the restrictions are lifted. As more people work from home or other remote locations, cyclists will once again enjoy the benefits of fewer cars in city streets.

Obviously, there are many more reasons why cycling is incredible, but these points are perhaps most pertinent these days.

We welcome cyclists of all experience levels at cycle2city, whether you’re a road cyclist pro or someone who is just discovering your pedals. As an alternative to public transportation, we remain open in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD, and have strengthened our already strict hygiene procedures.

  • Secure, state of the art bike storage
  • 400+ personal lockers
  • Bike workshop with member discounts: Same day service while you’re at work
  • Plenty of clean shower stalls with fresh towels supplied daily
  • Fresh clothes delivered directly to your locker through our valet laundry service
  • 24/7 member access in the heart of Brisbane

Please note that we have limited space available! Get a c2c membership now before you miss out! If you want to check us out before signing up, you can get a free 7 day trial!


We’re Still Open for Members: How we Combat Coronavirus!

The global coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption to life as we know it. With all non-essential services being forced to close last Monday at noon, most people are now either working from home – or not at work at all.

What does this mean for cycle2city?

For now, it is business as usual on our end – with some modifications. Brisbane City Council have confirmed that we are regarded as an essential service as an alternative to public transport, and as such we will remain open until further notice. Cycling is an excellent option now that social distancing is on everyone’s mind.

We have members who are considered to be in essential services who need to commute to the city, and we will stay open 24/7 for as long as we can, and as long as it is safe to do so.

That said, we have made changes in our routines to ensure the safety of our members:

We have strengthened our individual disinfection and social distancing procedures at cycle2city to minimise the risk of any infection, and encourage all visitors to use the hand sanitisers provided.

Our showers are already in cubicles, and we are taking further precautions by providing Viraclean in pressure sprayers to help disinfect the shower cubicles before and after use. Viraclean is a hospital grade disinfectant which doesn’t use chlorine, has a neutral pH and is completely biodegradable.

With these new routines in place in addition to our already high standards of cleaning and disinfection procedures within the facility, we believe that commuter cycling to cycle2city is one of the safest ways to get into the city at the present moment.

Membership freezes available

However, we understand that these are hard times for many, and our increased cleaning will mean little to those who won’t be going into the city for work at all in the near future. We have therefore temporarily removed the maximum membership freeze period of two fortnights per year.

We will review this decision by 30 April 2020. If you wish to freeze your membership please send your request to administration@cycle2city.com.au.

An administration fee of $10 per fortnight applies over the period of the freeze, but we hope that this can help ease the pressure that many are sure to be feeling these days. Please note that your usual access to cycle2city will not be available for the duration while your membership freeze applies. However, you may continue to store your bike and personal items in your locker with us. If you need to access these items, simply email administration@cycle2city.com.au with the subject line “ACCESS REQUEST” or contact us by phone as per below.

If you have any queries please let us know via email administration@cycle2city.com.au or by calling our founder John Hack directly on 0488 552 338.

Please stay healthy and well.


When is it Safe to Ride in Bushfire Smoke?

Parts of Australia have been a blazing inferno for three months now. While Brisbane has been fortunate, there have been sporadic bushfires in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales that have impacted our river city.

It’s obvious that riding through thick plumes of smoke won’t be good for you, but it’s harder to know when it is and isn’t safe to ride when you can barely notice the smoke layer.

And that’s exactly what we hope to shed some light on for you in this blog!

Bushfire smoke is no joke

Both Canberra and Melbourne were measured to have the worst air quality in the world at some point in the last month. Sydney only got down to the 9th worst in the world, but that was their worst ever measurement. What does it all mean?

The problem is that smoke is mainly made up of three things: small particles, gases, and water vapour. The ingredient that poses the biggest immediate danger is the particles. This particulate matter (PM) can be extremely small.

Particulate matter is measured in micrometres, and one micrometre is 1/1000 millimetre – extremely small. These particles are carried by wind and gases, and can be as small as 1 micrometre. For reference, the diameter of a human hair is around 75 micrometre, so these particles are extremely small.

Particles at around 10 micrometre (also known as PM10) are small enough to pass through your airways and into your lungs. Particles at PM2.5 are so small that they can enter your bloodstream through the lungs.

As these particles build up in your body, they can cause a number of health problems:

  • Irritated eyes and a burning sensation
  • Irritated nose and throat – runny noses are common
  • Aggravated asthma symptoms 
  • Aggravating lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema
  • Aggravating heart diseases such as congestive heart failure and arrhythmia

What can you do? When can you ride?

New South Wales’ official advice for protecting yourself from bushfire smoke includes:

  • Avoiding vigorous exercise
  • Spending more time indoors
  • Spending time in air conditioned venues

You could also use a P2/N95 face mask to reduce your exposure to breathing in particulate matter, but will also make it harder to breathe, especially when you’re riding a bike.

The only real option to not expose yourself to serious health risks if the air quality is bad is to get a roller trainer for your bicycle and work up a sweat inside at home.

How to check the air quality

Air quality is measured by the Air Quality Index. You can find their scores by visiting their website

 

The website readings are colour coded, which makes them easy to understand. For some further nuance, here are the official guidelines for air quality readings:

  • 0-50 – Good: Air quality is considered good, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
  • 51-100 – Moderate: Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
  • 101-150 – Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups: Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
  • 151-200 – Unhealthy: Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
  • 201-300 – Very unhealthy: Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected. Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.
  • 300+ – Hazardous: Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects. Everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion

As you can see above, active children and adults should begin limiting their outdoor workouts already at 101 PPM. At the time of writing, parts of Victoria, including Melbourne, sit at around 160 PPM.

Unfortunately, the only way to stay safe from bushfire smoke is to avoid it as much as possible. If you have to ride, do it at the gym or on a roller trainer indoors. Smoke is very dangerous, and your one workout is not important enough to risk chronic lung problems.