The longer you stay on your bike, the greater the chance you will begin to create an atmosphere for injury to yourself due to the extremely repetitive nature of bicycling and the relative low impact. Many people view low or no impact as the way to go and this is one of the reasons that they choose bicycling in the first place, it may very well be why you have chosen to go on your epic bike tour.
Lets look at the body quickly and explain some basic things to make sure you do not weaken yourself in the process of becoming stronger.
The body is a highly complex machine. Every part of your body is based upon the components around it through a series called the kinetic chain. To give a basic overview of the chain, its effects on the body, AND, a great place for you to start healing yourself, take a look down at your feet. Notice the bones, the muscles, all of which are connected by tendons and ligaments. Every time you step, a burst of force travels in an upward direction through your foot, shin, knee, hip, spine, all the way to your skull. Now, depending upon how you walk, toes splayed out, slightly in, more on one side than the other, heel strike first, fore foot first etc., this will have a huge impact on how the energy moves through the body.
The foot is designed to hit the fore foot first, on the two balls with a light heel touch and then off to the next step. This is easily understandable when you look at the foot. The shock absorption is in the front, not the back, in fact, if you land on the heel to hard, you will break the bone! Modern shoes and ways of thought have us heel striking first, this is incorrect according to how you are MADE. This is what matters, and this is why there is a resurgence of minimalist footwear, I say resurgence as native tribes have been aware of this forever, we are just coming online now and some companies are making a fortune off it!
So, depending upon how you strike the ground, a force moves through the body, incorrect walking and you could have neck and shoulder pains all related to your feet! Idea number 1. Start focusing on your posture and even if you wear regular sneakers, begin walking as you were designed, forefoot, light heel tap and next step. It may be difficult at first, but that is O.K., take your time, someday you will die, it is best to walk to your grave correctly as it has impact on all other aspects of your life.
It is this kinetic chain that is responsible for moving energy correctly through the body as long as you are aware and working on your posture and foot strike. This energy as it moves has another effect, either strengthening or debilitating.
It causes the bones and sinew to react and in the process strengthen, or, if you are moving incorrectly, to weaken. This is why impact during sport is beneficial, again, if you are moving as you were designed, either by God or evolution, it doesn’t matter, you have a body that works best in a certain way.
This shock to the system, causes strengthening. In the case of long distance cycling, or any long period of cycling per day, like pro or aspiring pro cyclists, they aren’t on tour, but they spend as many hours as you on a bike, you lose this as cycling is so very low impact. One problem cyclists MAY run into is bone density issues.
Another issue is that of working a very specific muscle group for extended periods of time. Many of you are right or left handed. Take a look at your arms, one may be visibly weaker than the other. This may manifest in your riding in different ways, the tendons in the ankle, knees and hips, the muscles in various parts of the body will become much stronger than a muscle group directly beside them. This is counter productive to health as it physically imbalances you. You do not want this as a person physically or mentally and the two are connected! Further, when you strengthen one area and the area directly beside it is weakened, this will lead to an over emphasis of problems. If we look at the knee and ankle, you strengthen in such a way as to push the pedals in a certain motion literally hundreds if not thousands of times per day, you become very strong for that motion. As a human, when you walk, your body will be subjected to many different motions, such as twisting and turning, pitches in elevation on one part of the foot and not the other, next thing you know, you have a knee or ankle sprain simply stepping onto an uneven sidewalk!
So what do we do?
Everyday, stretch and engage in some sort of physical exercise which will incorporate your body as a whole.
Using Diana and myself as examples, Diana loves to run and is a Yoga practitioner/teacher, I like running and my Kung Fu practice. Through these, we address all potential trouble areas. We get the impact we need and because we are focused on our posture and using our Vibram minimalist running shoes, we are using our feet correctly thereby sending positive shock through out our bodies. With the Yoga and Kung Fu, we take care of muscle strengthening and stretching. Added to the cycling, we have become quite fit!
Of course we suggest either Yoga or Martial arts as they are tested by CENTURIES of practice and have changed millions of lives. Whatever you choose as long as it strengthens your muscles wholly and stretches them, and you have something that will help maintain bone density, which coincidentally yoga does as stretching pulls muscles which in turn puts a stress on ligaments and tendons, which in turn put a stress on the…. BONES! Positive stress equals strength, improper stress will bring about slowly decay and weakness, this is applicable to all aspects of your life and nature around you. True story.
Whatever you do, do it regularly, we feel three times a week is a minimum, and do it happily, its your life, you are what you eat and your body is how you get around and experience, respect it and show it love! You will only get this one and it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, no one else’s! Go be Ninja!