If you plan on a long-distance bike ride, be it for competition or just for fun, you need to prepare carefully. While the health benefits of cycling are undeniable (Environmental Health Perspectives), there are some risks to the activity. Those risks become more pronounced when you push your body to ride for a long time. You’ll need to take certain precautions to reduce those risks and make the bike ride a true health-booster. Here are our top five tips to ensure your long-distance bike rides make you feel healthier – rather than making you feel awful!
Top 5 Tips on How to Make Long-Distance Bike Rides Healthy and Safe
Tip 1: Change Your Position. Often.
A long-distance ride is sure to be hard on your legs, but it’s your hands, neck, shoulders, and butt that’ll hurt much more during this adventure. And the only way to reduce this pain somewhat is to give those muscles at least a tiny bit of exercise. This means you should shrug and change the position of your hands often. Shrugging should be a constant, so try not to go even a full minute without some minuscule movement.
As for your butt, which is sure to be sore, you should wear padded shorts of the highest quality you can afford. And don’t forget to get a comfy saddle. You’ll need it so you don’t have to feel agony every time you hit a pebble.
Men should also be aware that long hours spent on the saddle might be a risk for developing erectile dysfunction. The risk is small, according to Harvard Medical School. However, it highlights the fact that ensuring the most comfortable ride possible isn’t only a matter of personal comfort, but your actual health.
Tip 2: Eat and Drink Often
Cycling is a great type of cardio exercise for burning fat. But it also burns your energy extremely fast. When setting out on a long-distance ride, you have to be prepared to refuel your body often. Eating a 200-300 calorie snack every hour is the best way to go if you are in a race. If you are riding at a moderate pace and over even terrain, you can bring down the frequency a bit.
The type of snacks you eat will have a big impact on your performance and health during a long ride. You might be surprised, but to get a list of the best choices you should look up what to eat to lose weight. Pick the snack-like foods from that list and include them in your long-distance ride menu. These particular options (for example, almonds, fruits, cottage cheese) energize your body fast and give you a wide range of nutrients. This means you get a balanced influx of energy.
Timing your snacks wisely will ensure that you don’t deplete and exhaust your body. This will not only boost your performance and stamina. The nutrients will also help speed up muscle recovery, so you’ll be less sore come the next morning.
As to water, staying hydrated while riding is paramount. This is very much a matter of life and death, so be sure to drink a few gulps every 30 minutes, or even more often if you feel thirsty.
Tip 3: Avoid the Rush Hour and Busy Roads
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, as well as other sources, highlight the danger of exhaust fumes for cyclists’ health. It’s a major threat and in some cases the damage can be severe enough to outweigh the benefits of exercise.
As you might not be able to avoid the fumes completely during a long-distance ride, your best choice is to limit the damage. This means planning your trip to make sure that you avoid the rush hours. You also need a route that will be no less than a block away from busy roads.
Tip 4: Ride Up the Hills with Minimal Stress
There is no avoiding hills completely on a long-distance ride. Therefore, you need to learn how to climb them without increasing the stress on your body too much. To do this, you simply need to keep your pace steady, regardless of the obstacle. Alternate your position (sitting and standing) to make it easier on the muscles.
It’s natural that you’ll need to put in more effort for the climb up. However, you will also get a chance to relax a little when going downhill. Practice to find the balance that will put the least amount of strain on your muscles.
Tip 5: Develop a Pacing Strategy
When you set out for a long-distance bike ride, you need to pace yourself from the start. This way, you’ll avoid collapsing from exhaustion halfway through.
You should start with deliberately slowing down at the beginning, when adrenaline and stamina levels are high. Instead, make sure to use up your energy at a steady and even pace. If you are racing, be sure to leave a bit of strength for the final burst of speed.
With these five tips, we hope you will find your next long-distance bike ride a little easier!
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