Benefit of a Recovery Ride

How good is your recovery?  You hear of people going for recovery runs and stretching but the same should be applied to the bike also.

img_2360

British Cycling have a whole section on their website about how to recover from cycling that can be found here:

‘If you have done a hard training ride or event, going out for a recovery ride the next day can enhance the recovery process. Ride for 30-60 minutes on a flat course, keep your bike in the smaller chain ring and spin easy.’

My cycle club, Romford CC, offer a beginners ride that more seasoned riders use as a recovery ride on a Monday evening so this serves the perfect purpose for me to add as part of my training schedule.

Your recovery ride should be the easiest ride in your training schedule and yet this should not indicate that it is not just as important as other rides on your plan.  Your body needs to repair muscle fibres that can be worked hard on longer/harder/faster rides.  This in turn allows you to return and be stronger, progress quicker, reduce risk of injury and all of this in turn improves motivation – win win!

How hard should you go on a recovery ride? It is simple:

  • make it easy on yourself!
  • pick an easy route
  • don’t extend the time spent on it – absolutely should not be a long ride, probably a maximum of an hour and a half
  • set an easy pace – if you work off heart rate then you should aim for about 60% of your maximum heart rate – think conversation pace
  • pick an easy gear – don’t over exert yourself with a heavy gear that requires more from the very leg muscles you are trying to help recover
  • cadence – if you work off cadence (I do as my husband likes to scream the word cadence when I am going too slow from a heavy gear, which is often) then you should be increasing your cadence from the norm ie if you usually average 90 RPM this should be approximately 100/105 RPM for recovery
  • power – if you work off power then think about reducing it for recovery to approximately 50% of your FTP

Most people will go harder than they should – I know I do sometimes.  It is easy to do especially if in a group or if you pick what would be an easy route for you, to suddenly up the pace and therefor gears.  Don’t.  That completely undoes the good work that will come from a recovery ride.

An alternative is of course the turbo or rollers for a short spin of the legs and using the same basis as above will give the same result.

In addition to all of the above some other areas that will help include:

  • sleep – a regular sleep pattern with around 8 hours of sleep will help
  • drink – not gin sadly, but ensuring your fluid intake is good will prevent dehydration which will effect performance and slow down recovery
  • nutrition – have that protein – it will aid with rebuilding muscle tissue

I saw a quote recently that read ‘Ride Hard, Recover Harder’, which are wise words!

And if you don’t want to get back on the bike for the recovery you can always look at yoga, foam rolling and other forms of stretching as active recovery.

 

Guest Post – My First World Lymphedema Day

This is a guest post from my husband Brett.

Today, 6th March 2019, is World Lymphedema day and most of you reading wouldn’t of ever heard of this, this includes myself until recently.

January 2019 was the time i finally got a diagnosis of a condition I have been suffering with for the last 8 years, since 14th March 2011. This is called Primary Lymphedema.

For further information on all lymphatic issues this website is a great reference.

Lymphedema (LE) has a primary and secondary status in the UK and this is how it is determined:

  • Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body.
  • Secondary lymphedema can occur when any condition or procedure damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels. This can be surgery, radiation treatment for cancer and infection. Infection is most common in tropical and subtropical regions and in developing countries.

At this time I had some swelling in my left ankle which I thought was a result of an injury from running, which i had just started to do. I kept an eye on this and a month later I still had it and now I was unwell. I had a temperature of 39.1c and couldn’t even get up. Lisa had enough and dragged me to the doctors who straight away said that I have cellulitis in my lower left leg and off to the hospital I went. (Cellulitis is a very common bacterial skin infection which gets extremely hot to touch and is very painful).

My condition got worse and worse and as I had been untreated for so long it was tough for the doctors to treat successfully. After 4 days I still wasn’t responding to IV antibiotics and daily I was visited by surgeons in preparation for amputation, as they where concerned it would manifest into a flesh eating disease and if it got to this the survival rate is very low.

They wanted to try one last antibiotic, as it was so strong I needed to be isolated into a separate room away from all the other patients. Thankfully we saw results in the next few hours and It was incredible how fast it worked. Leg saved and this was the start for a very long and frustrating 8 years.

Since that first episode I have had a ‘flare up’ 8 more times and the story is always the same. I either have a trauma to my left leg and this can be a cut, blister or even a bout of athletes foot and then the tell tale signs start. I get either very tiny red dots on my leg, extreme pain in my groin where the lymph node is swollen and fighting infection or a temperature of 39.1c – it doesn’t matter in what order I get these I always end up with all of them.

The picture below shows top left me cycling 45 miles and the remaining pictures are the four days that followed with me being unable to walk.

The trouble is the bacteria in my leg spreads so quickly I have a couple of hours to get to the hospital, but knowing these signs help.

I have had a break from flare ups from June 2015 – July 2018 and now it has started again.

I now had more than enough of this and decided to seek private medical advice and within a matter of a month I had the answer I have been looking for after so many years. The NHS really did their best in looking after me but as this condition is classed as a rare disease and disorder not many doctors or nurses know the signs or have the knowledge to treat it effectively. Every time I went in as an emergency, except once, they saw me quickly and treated me extremely well.

I was lucky enough to be seen by Professor Peter Mortimer at the Parkside London hospital in Wimbledon. He, without a doubt, changed my life with the explanation of my condition. The long and short of it is that my lymph nodes on the left side of my groin do not work and this causes the lymphatic system in my left leg to fail. Now I know what you are thinking is that why do I have primary and not secondary LE and the results of my tests showed that my right side groin lymph nodes are ‘weak’ as well so it was something I was born with and these infections have brought it to light.

Now having this condition I do have issues to deal with. I have to wear compression wear everyday and my leg swells to at least 50% more than it should.

The other thing Is that this is a condition not many people understand or have ever come across before and don’t have an idea of what the issues are so I will try and educate the best I can.

  • swelling can come and go in a matter of hours or last for days
  • it’s painful – not a sharp pain more of a big bruise when swollen
  • the pressure it causes is unbelievable and feels like my leg is going to burst
  • flying is not pleasant at all
  • leg is heavy

They are the most common feelings for me.

Currently I am having my leg wrapped twice a week to control the swelling in preparation for a medical grade compression garment that I will have to wear for the rest of my life. I am also on medication for this.

To manage this condition I have made many life changes and this has really helped and these include major diet changes (no meat only fish), lots of veg , no dairy and lots and lots of exercise and I can not recommend this enough. The exercise has seen me, over the years, complete multiple sporting events as I will not let this condition dictate my well being or life.

The biggest difference is the unconditional help and support from Lisa (Fat Girl Fit) and her willingness to do anything to make me as comfortable as possible. I wouldn’t be able to do this without her.

The Importance of a Bike Fit

Having recently purchased a new bike (insert happy dance here) I was keen to make sure that the set up is correct as my training increases and in turn the mileage.  The main reason for this is to ensure I am comfortable in the cycling position but also to help with limiting any injuries and making sure I am cycling efficiently.

This is not the first bike fit I have had and previously I suffered with a knee issue and also pain the lower back and it is amazing what some simple adjustments can do.  If you are thinking what can it do well the answer is wonders and I say this from first hand experience.

img_6999

Comfort really is key when taking on endurance events especially and knowing I have a 300km ride in the middle of this year I was keen to make sure my set up was correct not only for the event but all the miles I will need in training.

Hand in hand with comfort is also efficiency.  Sounds odd?  Not really, because if you are comfortable in your cycling position you will be more efficient with your endurance in turn.

There is nothing worse than getting injured.  We have probably all suffered whether it be a little niggle or a full blown injury that can even see you out of action for quite some time and whilst a bike fit will not guarantee that won’t happen, it will limit and prevent injury.  This is because the fit will ensure your body is aligned in the correct way.

A good bike fit can make your riding feel as though it is on a brand new bike!

I have had all of my bike fits done at Yellow Jersey Cycles in Billericay by Nathan.  Nathan is a Retul (as used by British Cycling) certified fitter.

Nate

There are other ways of bike fits being conducted but the benefit of a Retul fit is that it uses 3D technology and this means the measurements are accurate to within a millimetre.  As their brand mission states:

‘Retul stands for being the most technically advanced bike fitting and product matching technology available on the market.’

So what happens during a bike fit?  It is a thorough process that takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours and includes the following:

  • To start with there will be some basic tests to observe gait, flexibility and discuss any injuries and also goals.
  • You will then hope onto your bike and have little pads attached to various parts of you (wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, heel, and toe) and this will provide the 3D image to the fitter as you cycle to show and provide real time information from each pedal stroke.
  • There are certain parameters that each element should be within and the fitter can then identify those that sit outside that range and make the necessary adjustment to the bike set up.
  • This is repeated for each side of your body (and if you are like me the little platform that is moved around to give the fitter the best view is probably the scariest part – I did once fall off a turbo trainer lets remember!).
  • Once the fit is complete and both the fitter and you are happy a specialist tool is used to create a map of your bike measurements and this with the 3D results provides the fit details.

Voila!

The worst part?  Peeling off those sticky little pads that are attached!

Most fitters will provide you with this information so you have it for reference for future use.

Group Cycling

As part of the British Cycling One In A Million campaign I have been sharing lots of stories not just from myself but other inspirational women and it has naturally generated discussion, which is great!

I also shared a picture on my social media last week discussing the phrase ‘on your right’ and again there were some comments that made me think I would write this post.

Until I started cycling and joined a club I was unaware of the cycling etiquette that plays a huge role in group cycling.

img_0152

I am a member of Romford CC and we follow the guidelines laid out by British Cycling, which covers everything from Code of Conduct to hand signals.  Most clubs should provide this sort of advice to their members and it doesn’t take long for this to be something you don’t even think about when group cycling.  In fact I recently went away for a weekend hiking in the Peak District with a group of friends who for the most part were cyclists and as we walked and cars approached we would comment ‘car back’ and ‘car passing’.  Yep we are that sad and what is worse is that we also laughed (we are also clearly hilarious).

The photo I earlier referred to was saying how my cycle commute is largely on a dedicated cycle path though as it is only wide enough for two bikes (one in each direction) there may be the situation to overtake and in doing so I should on your right to alert the person in front not only of my position but also my intention to overtake.  It is not an aggressive shout but for safety.  Anyway, another cyclist asked my why I had said that and that they’d heard it before but being new to cycling wasn’t sure if it meant they were to do something and said it was interesting to them to understand and learn all the nuances.

So why did it prompt this post?  Well for two reasons as I became aware that although I know the group cycling etiquette that others may not and also because it was commented that the lingo could be a bit alienating for those not in the know, which is a fair point.

So what sort of things are covered when it comes to group cycling etiquette? Here I share some:

  • Ensuring your bike is in good working order – standard.
  • Communication – key to any group cycling, in fact I would say not just a group per se but key to riding any more than as a solo cyclist.  Some calls I will often hear whilst cycling will include slowing, stopping, gravel, car up to warn of a car approaching, car back to warn of a car behind, car passing to warn that a car is overtaking and clear to let others know that it is clear to the left or right.
  • Never overlap wheels – quite simple, if your wheel is overlapping the wheel in front slightly and they move to avoid an obstacle for example there will more than likely be an incident as the wheel in front will likely take yours out!
  • Formation – despite common misconception the Highway Code advice says you should never ride more than two abreast. It also says you should ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends. You should always factor in the road conditions and should go into single file when necessary.  There are many diagrams online that illustrate how it is actually easier for a car to pass a group of cyclists who are two abreast as opposed to a long line of single riders, however, as noted earlier common sense should be adopted depending on the circumstances.
  • Be aware – it is all too easy to just follow the wheel in front, but as a cyclist in the group you have to accept the responsibility of being aware of your surroundings and other road users and pedestrians. Also good to be aware, especially down country lanes, of walkers and running that will be on your side of the road coming towards you.
  • Be consistent – what I mean by this is that a consistent pace is much safer when in a group and this is not the place for speed intervals for example.  Sudden increases and decreases in speed and power will result in erratic braking and is just not safe for group cycling. The term hold your line is often said.
  • Horses – not everyone is aware but it’s important to pass horses steadily and safely and alert the rider so they are not startled either. It’s important not to freewheel as the sound it creates can often startle a horse.
  • Mudguards – I love an obstacle run and being covered in mud but not everyone does especially on the bike and so mudguards are courteous to have especially in wet and winter conditions so the riders behind are not sprayed.
  • Don’t use tri bars – unfortunately for some tri bars and group cycling do not go well together in terms of safety.  Why?  When riding a time trial (TT) bike or aerobars you do not always have the same control and cannot react in the same way without easy and quick access to the brakes.  This is not an uncommon rule within a cycling club.
  • Helmets – although helmets are not a legal requirement most clubs adopt a rule of no helmet, no ride.
  • Lights – you must have front and rear lights, lit, clean and working properly, when cycling between sunset and sunrise.  You cannot have a red light at the front of your bike or a white light at the rear and with regards to flashing lights, regulations now allow flashing lights, provided they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute.
  • Abide the rules of the road – as a cyclist you are a vehicle on the road and should abide the same rules within the Highway Code.

Here I share some of the hand signals:

  • Stop – hand raised straight up in the air
  • Slow down – hand gesture to the side gently moving up and down
  • Pointing downwards (sometimes done in a circular motion) – this is done to make riders behind aware of a possible obstacle in the road be that an item or a pothole for example
  • Pointing behind your back – this indicates that there is an obstruction ahead and riders should move in the direction you are pointing, for example a parked car to the left you would point behind your back to the right to alert fellow riders behind to follow suit in the same direction
  • Indicate – if you intend to turn left or right ensure you indicate for awareness of all other road users.
  • Thumbs up – manners cost nothing and it is always nice to thank other road users in certain situations.

More information can be found on the British Cycling website here.

 

 

 

 

Hiking In The Peak District

Last weekend I spent four days in The Peak District with a group of friends to celebrate my husbands 40th birthday.  He is not one for parties and so some time out and a mini adventure seemed a much better option.

He thought it was just us and the dog so it came as a total surprise as his closest friends started to turn up.

We had hired the Farmhouse at Benty Grange through Peak Venues and it was absolutely perfect.  There were twelve of us (six couples) and this property had six double bedrooms all with their own en suites.  Real log fire, fresh eggs put out daily to purchase at the end of the driveway, sheep in the adjoining field, and enough of everything in the house for a small army – you name it they had it.

Originally there was mountain biking on the agenda but as the snow in Monyash covered everything we figured this was probably not the smartest idea so instead we decided the weekend would mostly consist of hiking and eating.  The two go hand in hand right?

The first day saw us head to Mam Tor, translated as Mother Hill, for our first hike.  It was a clear day and that meant the views were amazing.  There were several falls, one of us nearly taken out by a child on a sled and a wrong turn that took us up the steepest side of the climb, which I admit I was worried I was literally going to slide straight back down again.

32a9c5a6-1940-498e-86bb-0b775be6efd9

The second day saw us head to the Monsal Trail.  the snow was started to melt but there were still very snowy and icy patches as we progressed.  This was a much easier hike than the day before but on each day the dogs were in their element bounding up and down from the front to the back of the group.  We started and finished in Bakewell, famous for their tarts so it would have been rude not to purchase some to take back to the farmhouse.

The property we were staying in also had a number of books which listed all the local walks and things to do in the Peak District and we didn’t even come close to seeing a fraction.  Which means just one thing – more trips there are needed!

img_6837

Now hiking was new for me.  As a child I would holiday with my grandparents every year and always in the UK and walking was a part of our daily routine but aside from hiking most of Beachy Head Marathon I can’t say I have ever been on an actual hike until now.  It will compliment my training and actually form part of my husbands as he is doing the Marathon de Sables half in September so I am keen to get more of this done.

In terms of kit I had no idea where to start.  There seemed to be so much out there and if I had the budget could end up spending a small fortune.  Luckily I had the help of Decathlon, who are a favourite of mine and whatever I need I know I can pretty much always get it in there and this was the same for the hiking.  Everything I am wearing in the pic below is from Decathlon.

img_6772

When I say everything I literally mean everything!  Here is a list:

So what did I think of the kit?  Amazing!  I had used the boots previously a few times and they are so comfortable and no need to wear in at all.  You can work up quite a sweat whilst hiking and at some points it was really quite windy but everything I wore was just amazing.  Not a single thing on the list I would change for my next adventure.

Where to go next?

I was gifted the kit, but all opinions are my own.

My LaLa, the Specialized Ambassador who is #OneInAMillion

I am continuing to share stories of ladies who are an inspiration to me as part of the campaign from British Cycling #OneInAMillion.  This is looking to help, inspire and encourage one million more women to choose cycling by tackling common misconceptions that can make it trickier to get on a bike. From concerns over safety, confidence, or simply not knowing where to go.

I am proud to be a part of this campaign and and even more pleased to be able to introduce you to this awesome lady who I am grateful to for contributing to this post.

Meet Laura (aka LaLa).  This one is such an easy intro for me to write as I just bloody love this woman!  I am privileged to call her one of my besties and I am proud that she has been there through most of my journey into cycling. Even if she does make me do hills, and I hate hills, but she continues undeterred and listens (probably has figured out a way to drown out my moaning by now) to me huff and puff.  She introduced me to be a Ride Angel to help others on a sportive.  She was there for my first time trial experience and we completed it together as part of a two-up (working together instead of individual).

She agrees to my crazy ideas like a 186 mile bike ride around a lake in Sweden.  I agree to her crazy ideas like doing a six hour turbo session on Brentwood high street to raise money for Macmillan (yes you read that right we were in Towie land on bikes in lycra and yes it was six hours and yes it was the most painful thing ever).  She finished a bike ride over 300 miles from Newcastle to London after I convinced her to take part and then had my ride cut short as I came off my bike in bad weather conditions and ended up in an ambulance and she said she had to finish for me as I couldn’t and she did.  And I have so much respect for her with what she does in her ambassador role, selflessly helping other ladies get into cycling.

If there is one single person I know who is the absolute fit for this campaign it is LaLa and I love you x

‘For me, exercise has always been therapy. I probably didn’t realise it until my mid-20’s but I’ve always chosen physical challenges, so I had a reason to ‘train’.  Truthfully, I need to exercise for me. To clear my head and escape the day to day. I’ve run, swum and done aerobics in the past but didn’t start cycling until my 30’s.   

My cycling journey started some 9 years ago and since then I’ve gone from a pretty clueless, recreational rider to an experienced long-distance road rider, Specialized Women’s Ambassador and most recently a racer. Yup. Me. A middle aged office worker who took up cycling less than 10 years ago! Racing bikes. Not just road bikes either…different types of bikes. MTB, Cross and road.

I was the typical cycling widow, my partner would tell me he was off for a ride and he’d come home 3 hours later all sweaty but with a massive smile on his face. Not one to miss out, I bought a second-hand road bike and joined him.  I loved that we were exploring our local area (neither of us are from Essex originally), keeping fit and spending quality time together.  

Cycling gives a real feeling of freedom and there are so many opportunities to challenge yourself. To start with, I was all about long distance rides completing numerous sportives including the inaugural Ride London 100 event in 2013.   Each year the rides got more ambitious, and further afield.  So far, I’ve been to Belgium (Tour of Flanders), Holland (Amstel Gold Race) and Sweden (Vatternrundan). Cycling gives an excuse to travel and cycling allows us to explore these countries in a memorable way.

Over the past 12 months I’ve got into racing. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s physically tough, yes, but it’s also a chance to meet like-minded ladies and I have to say all the racers I’ve met so far have been nothing but welcoming and supportive. I’ve just finished the cyclo-cross season and I’m looking forward to doing some road racing in the summer. The goal is to finish 2019 as a Cat 3 rider – ambitious perhaps but possible!

3eb34263-7fd7-4b82-a3de-ab691dbb6f61

*photo credit to Andrew Richardson*

Simply put, I just love riding my bike and the more I experience, the more I want to inspire, encourage and help other women to get into cycling.  I am a volunteer Ride Angel, a This Girl Can Essex Ambassador and Specialized UK Women’s Ambassador.  These roles, particularly the latter, give me the chance to spread the cycling love and happiness.  I lead monthly women’s rides from the Specialized Concept Store, Chelmsford and Thomas Cycle Revolution, Colchester and doing so I’ve met some brilliant women who I can now call my friends. We ride for cake, enjoy the journey and would love for you to join us!’

I will be adding more posts like this to inspire you and introduce some more of the lovely ladies I have met through cycling that inspire me.

More information for women who are thinking about getting on a bike for the first time can visit the British Cycling women’s hub for tips and advice on everything from the benefits of cycling, to hints and tips about how to get started.

Are you #OneInAMillion ?  Why not share your story too?

Another Inspiring Woman In Cycling #OneInAMillion

I am continuing to share stories of ladies who are an inspiration to me as part of the campaign from British Cycling #OneInAMillion.  This is looking to help, inspire and encourage one million more women to choose cycling by tackling common misconceptions that can make it trickier to get on a bike. From concerns over safety, confidence, or simply not knowing where to go.

I am proud to be a part of this campaign and and even more pleased to be able to introduce you to this awesome lady who I am grateful to for contributing to this post.

Meet Nadjie, another amazing lady who is also a part of the same cycling club as me, Romford CC.  Nadjie is always the happiest and positive person and was also named as one of Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling for 2018.

image2

‘My return to cycling started in January 2015 and I signed up to do Ride the Night for Women V Cancer.  Little was I to know a month later I would be diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer, triple negative.

The ride was in May and in March I had a mastectomy and started chemo in April.  With the help of my turbo I managed to cycle during my surgery recovery and chemo and, although it was tough, I did the ride 100km ride raising £5,000.

I’ve always been someone that needs a goal to keep me motivated, but I didn’t bank on how much cycling would help my mental health recovery from breast cancer.

In 2016 when I finished my treatment, I continued to cycle and became a British Cycling Breeze Ride Leader as I wanted to be a role model and inspire other women to cycle no matter what their mental or physical state.  Since then I have led 150 Breeze Rides.

In 2016 I  became an Ambassador for Breast Cancer Care but my passion was for Women V Cancer – supporting breast, ovarian and cervical cancer too.  I was horrified to find that there is no screening tool for ovarian cancer and that the survival rate for early stage is 10% for 5 years compared to about 85% for breast cancer.

image3

I never knew how much joy cycling would bring me, nor the help it would bring to my mental and physical recovery.  My cycling distance has steadily increased over the last 4 years and I am continually challenging myself.

I qualified last year as a British Cycling Level 2 coach which will enable me to combine ride leading with coaching.

Since my diagnosis I have raised £25,000 for Women V Cancer and other charities.

I love where my cycling has taken me and the people I have met.  This year I plan to cycle 6,000 miles which will include London to Paris in 24 hours, Wild Atlantic Way – 600 miles over 7 days and Women V Cancer Cycle Costa Rica – not bad for a 59 year old woman!

image1

I am already working towards riding London Edinburgh London in 2021.  I have been amazed at what I have been able to achieve, I never would have thought it, and now realise anything is possible. I want to inspire others to achieve their full potential too.   Am I one in a million – definitely, and you can be too.  Come and join me.’

I will be adding more posts like this to inspire you and introduce some more of the lovely ladies I have met through cycling that inspire me.

More information for women who are thinking about getting on a bike for the first time can visit the British Cycling women’s hub for tips and advice on everything from the benefits of cycling, to hints and tips about how to get started.

Are you #OneInAMillion ?  Why not share your story too?