While developing the Mind.Body.Bike. app (available on the App Store and Google Play Store) we realised just how many habits those of us who ride often have that may be useful to those starting out.
1 Swing your legs straight out of bed when your alarm goes off
Ok so this one isn’t strictly a habit for on the bike, but it is a good habit to making sure you maximise your riding time (so it totally counts). Getting up in the morning is HARD. Especially if you have kids or are a carer, as you can’t always control when you go to bed and how much sleep you’ll get.
Obviously if you need to sleep in, sleep. There’s no point in exhausting yourself and being miserable throughout the day. But if you just feel like you want 5 more minutes, doze off and feel WORSE when you wake back up, then this is a great tip for you.
If you’re a roadie, riding in the morning (before all the traffic of the day starts to gather) is ideal. It’s generally nice and cool (some places, a little bit too chilly), you can see beautiful sunrise colours in the sky and you can often get to your favourite cafe before the work hoards arrive. If you’re a mountain biker, you may not have as strict a morning routine as your road counterparts, but if you like to fit in some dirt riding betrween home and work – this one could work for you too.
As soon as your alarm goes off, swing your legs out of bed and sit on the edge of the mattress. Simply by sitting up and grounding your feet, you’re sending a powerful message to your brain that it’s UP time, and not an interruption to sleep through. If this isn’t enough to get you out of bed, try putting your phone across the room so you have to get out of bed to switch it off*
*Caution: if you have a partner who isn’t a cyclist, this one may not create soothing vibes in your household.
2 Switch on your core
Some of you may be nodding your heads thinking you’ve heard this one before. Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Do I even have a core? How do I switch it on?”
Your core includes everything from your pelvic floor muscles right through to your pectorals in the front, and your lower back through to your shoulder blades at the back.
Why is this important? Well, your core stabilises your spine providing a firm support for all the bike-related activities you do! They transfer force through your body and prevent you from having undesired back, hip, knee and even neck pain. Seriously, it’s super important to learn how to ride with your core switched on.
The easiest way to think about how to do this is drawing bellybutton in towards your spine. That doesn’t mean holding your breath and sucking in your gut. In fact, as your belly button draws toward your spine you should be able to breathe completely normally… but you should feel warmth/heat\tension\activation in your middle area which is a good sign it’s working!
3 Warm up beforehand AND stretch afterwards
So often, especially if we ride in the morning, we are so focused on waking up at the last possible minute to get as much sleep as possible that we often jump on the bike cold (ie without having warmed up). Then when we’re done riding, we often finish at a cafe for a coffee and don’t stretch as well as we should.
There are a lot of well documented benefits of warming up which can be any activity that gradually revs up your heart and lungs by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up also increases the temperature of your muscles, allowing them to contract more forcefully and relax more quickly (ie literally a more bang for buck workout) and reduces the risk of overstretching a muscle and causing injury by allowing your large joints like knees and hips to reach a good movement potential.
Another great benefit of a gentle warm up is the chance to mentally prepare for what’s ahead. If you’re already a member of MindBodyBike you can do your warm up while listening to one of our meditations for extra focus and a clear mind.
When it comes to stretching afterwards, one of the foremost benefits is increased flexibility of the different muscle groups. When you start stretching, it helps your muscles release back to their more comfortable state, and your body will eventually become more flexible, which can help prevent injuries.
The moment you started riding, your body started producing lactic acid which makes the muscles fatigued and sore. Stretching helps remove the lactic acid that has accumulated inside the body and helps prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Tip: Stretching isn’t just for the muscles. It also helps harmonize your mind, relax your mood, and relieve stress. Stretching also gives you a chance to tune into your body, taking notice of any sore muscles or joints that need extra attention or a break.
4 Perfecting your hydration
Everyone needs to drink fluids while exercising to replace what you’re losing in sweat, but remember that you also need to replace the salts you lose while exercising. These salts work within your body to help produce reactions such as muscle contraction, nerve movement and a regular heartbeat. A great way to replenish these without resorting to sports drinks is to add a good squeeze of lemon and a pinch of pink himalayan salt.
The general rule is that if you find yourself feeling thirsty, you’re already starting to dehydrate. It’s important to drink fluids every 15-20 minutes while bike riding (especially in hot weather or when you’re really throwing the hammer down).
Don’t bonk. Make sure you drink enough fluids when you exercise to maintain your concentration and performance, increase your endurance, and prevent excessive elevations in heart rate and body temperature. It’s all about sufficient hydration.
5 Meditation and mindfulness to overcome anxiety
Anxiety is super common, especially when you’ve just started riding. There’s so much to remember, plus playing with traffic if you’re on the road bike or obstacles to tackle on the MTB. You also may find you get social anxiety if you’re riding with new groups of people and find that part stressful too.
Meditation has been proven to lower stress levels and improve attention – both of which are handy to have no matter where you ride.
We’ve written a bunch of meditations specifically for cyclsts as part of the MindBodyBike app so if you’re already a member make sure to check those out.
6 Put sunblock on every time you ride
“It started as an existing freckle that I noticed starting to change quite quickly. It grew kind of a bluish veil over it and the edges started to become very undefined. . When I went to the doctor, they took one look at it and I had it removed in minor surgery that same day. It was a few days before my 25th birthday.
The day after my birthday I went in for my results. The doctor told me that not only was the growth cancerous, that it was one of the most aggressive types of skin cancer – melanoma. I now use sunblock every day. Even if it’s cloudy. Even in winter. Especially while I’m riding my bike.” .
Chief Chick Jordana’s personal experience with melanoma meant forming a partnership with an Australian-owned sunscreen company was a no-brainer.
Shop We Are Feel Good Inc – they’re an Australian made, owned and tested sunscreen bran which holds up in the toughest of climates. Their range is paraben, preservative, oxybenzone, octinoxate and PABA free, and nourishes the skin without compromising sun protection capabilities.
7 Get a reliable ride buddy
The only thing better than riding bikes is riding bikes with friends! Aside from rides where you just need your alone time, having a group of ride buddies will support your routine, commitment to getting some fresh air, and will hopefully keep you challenged AND enjoying yourself.
Find someone who is approximately the same level as you and aim to meet up a few times a week. Even if you start on bike paths or rail trails, it’s a great way to get into the habit of riding – because the only way to get better and more confident is to head out on the bike and ride more!