Guy’s, You don’t have to tell me…. Getting out of your comfort zone and doing more exercise is a pain in the proverbial but please, don’t let these short term pains make you miss out on Cyclings long term gains.
I’m going to own up. I’m a cyclist and always have been. There have been times in my life when I’ve been literally glued to a bicycle for months on end and there’s been times when I’ve not touched a bike for several years but Cycling is one of only a few things in my life that I keep going back to again and again and again.
Cycling to Arthritis recovery
One of the first things I did for Wade when he was starting to feel a little better in himself and started making noises about wanting to get out of the house more was I went on eBay and bought him a nice mountain bike, admittedly it was second hand but still, a very nice quality machine that had barely been ridden. Wade, like myself, always had an affinity with Cycling but had gotten out of the habit in the years leading up to his diagnosis and subsequent Arthritic decline.
Wade an I are both in agreement that Cycling has been one of the things that has been vital to his recovery from Rheumatoid Arthritis, these days Wade has improved his cycling fitness so much that I can’t keep up with the guy any more, he’s literally twice as fast as I am on a bike! We have the actual data to prove it!
Which type of cycling is best for me?
Cycling is one of those sports that has a myriad of different disciplines but this shouldn’t put you off, it should actually encourage you. Whether you want to go out Cycling on the road, Off road on the local trails, get into track cycling, BMX (yes they’re still around) or stationary forms of Cycling like David Beckham’s favourite Spinning, there’s loads of different activities to choose from. Cycling is super accessible with low entry costs on basic equipment and a huge second hand market where you can buy very decent bikes and associated equipment for very little money.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to get into cycling, let me point out a few of the benefits of your regular ride.
- Cycling can delay the onset of and reduce the effects of Arthritis
- Cycling is great for reducing weight, lowering the stress on your bones.
- Cycling has a less negative impact on the bones and joints than most other exercises
- Cycling is great for building bone density
- Cycling prevents muscle loss leading to better supported joints
- Cycling gets all of the vital bodily fluids moving to where they are needed
- Cycling helps you sleep better, aiding your bodies recovery
- Cycling is excellent Core exercise, this helps to quickly remove bodily waste.
- Cycling kick starts the Immune system
- Cycling can add years to your life
- Cycling reduces rates of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.
- Cycling 20 miles a week can cut your risk of heart problems in half
- Cycling can improve memory and brain function
It doesn’t take much searching around on Google to find contributions from Cyclists who’s arthritic conditions have been vastly improved by continued cycling, you can see a great example of this here in the comments on this Cycling and Arthritis related article.
So it’s good for just about everything then?
It would seem that cycling and overall physical fitness in general have a huge effect on the body and it’s ability to function normally, this should come as no surprise since the sedentary western lifestyle and poor diet have become synonymous with poor health and disease in the last few decades.
I feel that Cycling has benefited me greatly throughout my life and always miss it when it’s not a part of my life, as most of you now know, Wade and myself are identical twins and yet I don’t have Arthritis? It does make me wonder what goes on in the body and how our different life choices effect our health outcomes. Wade and I both had the same upbringing, very similar diets and lifestyles, maybe I just did more Cycling, maybe there was some tiny differences in our diets or lifestyles in later life that contributed to Wade’s Arthritis? Who knows?
Lycra isn’t very flattering but other people will be!
Some of the best, genuine compliments I’ve received from people about my appearance have come at times when I’ve been putting a lot of miles in on the bike, people have come up to me and commented on how great I look, this used to surprise me as I never really spent any time preening in a mirror, but it turns out that cycling regularly can protect your skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and reduce the signs of ageing. My latest Cycling binge started around 5 months ago and I have definitely seen a reduction in wrinkles and a younger looking version of me staring back from the mirror.
As for the Lycra…. You don’t have to wear it. (Wade and I don’t) I find that a tracksuit bottoms or similar sporting trousers are perfectly fine, match these with a t shirt when the weathers fine or a lightweight sports jacket in the colder months and you’ll be perfectly fine.
In the colder months, wrap up warm and take your time on the bike, gloves are a must for any time other than the summer here in the UK and we’ll be writing an article on the best types of gloves for sports and leisure in an upcoming article but the key to enjoying yourself is to be warm, comfortable and do things with a smile.
So…..How do I get into Cycling?
The first pedal stroke is always the most difficult but Cycling’s recent surge in popularity just goes to show that the sport has never been more accessible. The first step is to try and figure out the type of cycling you would like to do but remember you can always try more than one type of cycling and you might find indoor cycling more suitable in the winter. Here’s a list of things to consider.
- Will I cycle indoors or outdoors?
- What is the cycling terrain like right outside my front door?
- Am I a solitary cyclist or do I want to ride in a group?
- Do I really want to wear all that Lycra? This will be a consideration for road cyclists
- Are there places I can travel to locally that do my type of Cycling?
- Can I strap my bike to my car and go exploring?
- What type of Bicycle is suitable for the style of riding I want to do?
- Will I use my bike to commute to work and can I get a tax break for doing so?
- Are there clubs or resources close to me that I can use?
- Do I have an experienced cycling friend who I can tag along with and ask advice?
If you can answer these questions honestly (it’s easy to get carried away at the start) you should be able to start building a picture of the type of cycling you want to do and the type of bicycle that’s best suited to your needs.
You also need to consider the psychological aspect of getting into cycling, for instance. I think road cyclists look really cool in all that flashy Lycra and reflective glasses whilst they’re riding up the side of a mountain in the Tour de France but I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing all that gear riding through town, it’s just not me. I much prefer poking around in the mud, riding along bridleways and fire roads and exploring the countryside on my mountain bike, I need nothing more than a t shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms and don’t need special shoes and pedals to enjoy a few miles of local forestry. I guess I’m a low key kind of guy but you should do what you want to do and not what anyone tells you.
One other key benefit of mountain biking for me is, I’m not going to come into contact with any other road users, Cyclists and pedestrians I can handle but I don’t like riding on the country roads near my home as I just don’t feel that safe, having said that, most places that I go do have cycle lanes and the provision for cyclists in larger cities has dramatically improved in the last few years.
Pick the bike that suits you.
If you want to go down the shops in town, get a little town bike with a basket or if you commute to work on your bike and live in the UK you can get up to 42% off the cost of a new bicycle through the UK’s Cycle to work scheme. You don’t have to spend a fortune and you don’t have to get the latest bike, I spent a year in Spain riding around on a 3 speed Raleigh girls bike because it was the only form of transport for miles, I might of looked odd but it was super reliable and it got me in the best shape of my life!
It all depends on your circumstances I suppose, one circumstance that everyone reading this article finds themselves stuck with is Arthritis. The best thing to do about Arthritis is to turn your back on it and ride off into the distance on whichever bike you feel most comfortable.