You may not be planning to ride a bike on your next trip or vacation, but you should consider riding it at home BEFORE you go.
Most of you will spend many hours planning your travel experience, but will you think to ask if you are physically ready for the challenges of your trip? Not a chance.
You expect your body to handle the sightseeing and the long days without a second thought. But what if it says NO? What if you fly thousands of miles only to have your legs and feet and back and lungs stage a rebellion?
I founded Fit Travelers Have More Fun, and I’m fittravelgirl on Twitter, so you know where this is going…
Most of you will benefit from at least 4 weeks of gradually increased walking before your trip (provided your doctor agrees). You may not realize how helpful adding some bike rides to the mix can be, though, so let me fill you in. Provided you don’t have balance issues that make you feel unsafe on a bike, short bike rides can be a terrific addition to your walking program. Use your bike rides to gently stretch and strengthen your muscles while protecting your joints. A bike ride is also a great opportunity to strengthen your core muscles. Here’s what you do:
- Your big-picture focus is improved stamina for walking. You don’t need to spend too much time on your bike – working up to about 30 min (if your doctor agrees) should be fine, unless you’re specifically planning to bike on your trip.
- Be sure to avoid locking knees or elbows – you want to stretch and strengthen your muscles, which requires a slight bend at the joints (no locking)
- Don’t push to higher gears too quickly. Cyclists like to say, “Cycle with your lungs- not your legs”. This means to be in a low enough gear that you’re able to spin the pedals fairly easily and quickly, with no sudden pain or pulling on the knees from too much force from a too-high gear.
- Bike helmets aren’t optional. In my opinion, neither are the newer bike seats with cutouts in all the right places. If you’ve got an older bike seat, spend the $20-$30 dollars and get yourself one of these heavenly seats with cutouts- you’ll never go back!
- Let’s talk core muscles. If you’ve been inactive and sitting a lot, it’s likely your core muscles are weak. As you ride off, try this. First, imagine the flowers in your garden on a hot summer day. Remember how droopy they get? You’re just like that if your core muscles aren’t engaged. Exhale strongly. At the bottom of the exhale, you should feel your abdominal muscles tightening. Good. Now imagine your spine (starting from your tailbone and progressing all the way to your shoulders) getting firmer, following it’s natural curve, just like those droopy flowers do when you water them. Feel that good tension, that firmness at your waist? Note that if your core muscles are weak, you won’t be able to engage them for too long at first – try to limit your ride to the amount of time you can keep your core strong – perhaps 10 or 15 minutes at first. You’ll know you’ve overdone it if you’ve collapsed your waist and shoulders towards your bike again. See if, after a few core-focused rides, your back doesn’t feel better and your core stronger. Very motivating!
Bonus tip: It sure is relaxing to ride in a park or on a path where you don’t have to worry about cars. And, if you ride the same route each time, it’ll be easier to notice your progress. In a few short weeks of 2-3 short rides per week, you’ll likely notice that your core is strong for the entire ride and that you’re cycling faster because you’re less winded and your legs are stronger. Talk about motivation!
So, consider adding some short rides to your walking program as you prepare for your next fabulous trip or adventure.