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Friday, January 24, 2014

Best parts of cycling greatly outweigh any downside; getting better takes effort, but comes with big pay-off

Best parts of cycling greatly outweigh any downside; getting better takes effort, but comes with big pay-off
By:  Michael Lander
One of the best parts of cycling for some is training and riding together with friends who
also love cycling.  There are also some who do it as a way to support one or more charitable
organizations, like the Wings Cancer Foundation, who sponsor bike riding events for
fundraising purposes.  In this photo, from left to right, is Brian Jones, John Kakares,
and Chuck Bolton, all from Memphis.
Hot, tired, and sore...... That just about sums up how I felt after finishing most bike rides, especially in that first year when I returned to cycling after a 27-year hiatus.  This was also a time before I fully acclimated myself to the oppressive and suffocating heat that we regularly experience in the summer months in Memphis.

As tough as it sometimes was, following that first year of riding, I kept at it, riding as hard and as often as I could.  My ultimate goal was to better prepare myself for some long distance charity cycling events that I wanted to do, but I quickly found that I really enjoyed it, especially as I got faster and was able to go even longer distances.  Since then, I have logged thousands of miles over more than six years, and I have seen and experienced all that is great about cycling.

For most avid cyclists like me, the best part of cycling often far outweighs any downside that might come along with it.  For some, it is all about the fun and enjoyment of it and the time that they get to spend with friends who share their love of cycling. 

For others, it is about that great feeling that they get after a really strenuous workout or that wonderful sense of accomplishment after winning a race or just completing a long and difficult bike ride.  Whatever the reasons might be, the drive to go back to it again and again can have an irrepressible hold on you.  Some might compare it to a drug, but it is one, I believe, that comes without all the bad side effects.

Along with all the good that can come out of cycling, though, there are some parts of it that are not exactly that easy to overcome.  Like any other demanding physical activity, it does not come without a price.  This price for most cyclists is the time, effort, and expense that they have to put into it and the occasional pain and discomfort of riding, whether it is soreness in the arms, legs or contact areas of a bicycle seat, or the occasional leg cramps, to the numb and tingly sensation in one or both hands. 

Even though there is not always an easy remedy for all the pain and discomfort that a cyclist will encounter, for most, a lot of soreness can often be reduced by riding as frequently as possible and by doing some other additional strength training to augment this.  Having a bike that is properly fitted to your size is also critical for riding more comfortably too. 

Proper nutrition is equally important with consuming plenty of carbohydrates before attempting any long distance bike ride.  Cramping can also be a problem for some and that can be alleviated by occasionally stretching while riding and by getting a sufficient amount of electrolytes before and during a ride and by remaining adequately hydrated throughout it. 

It is also a good idea to invest in cycling clothes that will keep the sweat away from your body with shorts that have pads that will offer some amount of cushioning and will keep you as dry as possible.  Anti-chafing ointments and creams, like Skin Sake, will also help you with protecting against friction and preventing the development of saddle sores.

Beyond the practical suggestions and advice, though, a big part of overcoming pain while riding means becoming accustomed to a certain level of discomfort associated with it and by developing  a high enough tolerance and threshold for pain.  Even though some may already have that, for others it is something that should come to them in time. 

As with any other physical activity, there is a lot of truth in the maxim of "no pain, no gain," and pain is almost always the first step in the process for improvement.  It is sometimes helpful to see this as something that it is only temporary and one way to help minimize the effects of this is to ride as often as you can.  This should help to lessen soreness as your body adjusts and your muscles become better conditioned. 

It might make it easier to endure the initial stage of conditioning when it is seen as a means to an end with an ultimate pay-off when you reach the goals and objectives that you have set for yourself.  You just have to be willing to push yourself and to put up with some of the pain and discomfort on the front end in order to eventually achieve these later on. 

There is tremendous amount that someone can gain through cycling and anyone can get better at it by just doing it often, by pushing themselves just a little harder, and making sure that they always enjoy  it.  As long as it remains fun and rewarding for you, being hot, tired, and sore should not be enough to keep you away from doing it.

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