On yer bike! Pedal your way to peak health

Laura Williams

AS the Prime Minister announces plans for a major cycling investment and a summer of BBQs and Stella has taken its toll, the question is, is cycling really the multiple box-ticker it’s made out to be?

Cycling: The Perks

■ Numerous studies have found that you will get from A to B quicker cycling around town than battling through London traffic in a car.

■ Cycling’s a great calorie burner – a 45-minute journey across town will burn around 400 calories (depending on your speed and body weight).

■ Cycling’s low impact which means that if you suffer with any kind of joint pain it’s a little kinder than other forms of aerobic exercise such as running.

■ Cycling’s a great money-saver. Even with your initial bike outlay, you’re still likely to save money with a Zone 1 and 2 monthly travelcard currently costing in excess of £116 a month.


Getting Started

If you’re getting back on a bike after a long rest or you’re a complete novice, you might want to think about getting some cycle training. CTC, the national cycling charity, has an instructor finder on its website, ctc.org.uk. If you’re looking for something for the whole family, check out Bikeability, dft.gov.uk/bikeability/, the Department of Transport’s national programme for cycle training which offers cycling skills for both adults and children.

Don’t leave safety to chance. Everything from helmets to lights need to meet British safety standards, so if you need to check suitability of kit and/or find out what’s what when it comes to keeping yourself safe, visit nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Cycling.aspx

Bupa also offer a Bike Assessment aimed to help prevent and treat cycling-related injuries, as well as offering guidance on improving the efficiency and comfort of your cycling. Available at the Bupa Health Centre in Basinghall Street, EC2V (the service is also available to non-Bupa members). bupa.co.uk/basinghall

Improve Your Pedal Power

Check position and posture. There are many factors involved in becoming a strong and efficient cyclist, a couple in particular: first up is saddle position. Too high and you won’t be able to drive your feel efficiently; too low and you’re looking at knee pain. There are many complex ways to establish saddle height but probably the easiest is to ensure your knee’s positioned over the ball of your foot when the pedal’s at 3 o'clock, and slightly bent when the pedal’s at 6 o'clock. You should also always ensure hip, knee, and ankle are in line with each other, all facing forward, as you peddle, and always avoid hunching your back to prevent injury and early fatigue.

Befriend the Plank. Strength training is important to keep lower body muscles strong but don’t neglect your core. A strong core is vital for keeping everything afloat when you start to tire. The Plank works your transversus abdominis, your main core muscle, as well as upper and lower back. Lie on your stomach, place elbows underneath shoulders with forearms and hands on the floor. Come up onto toes, lifting hips off the floor, keeping back straight and abs tight, and hold for anything from 15-60 seconds. The key is to maintain good form for however long you’re in the position for – not to hold for hours on end.

Where Else to Go

britishcycling.org.uk The home of British Cycling where you can find everything from your local club to the latest on the GB team.