World-class athletic trainer Chris Carmichael is the national spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association’s 2012 Tour de Cure®! Last month, we solicited YOUR cycling questions for this renowned coach and author. Here are the rest of his responses — and if you missed it, be sure to check out the first part of this fascinating Q&A.
Being well-hydrated throughout the day is a great way to start, because that helps keep your muscles and joints ready for action. When you’re hydrated your body can also start sweating and continue sweating right from the first pedal stroke, which helps keep your core temperature under control. Once on the bike, spend the first 15 minutes or so riding at a high cadence and low resistance to get your blood flowing and your legs loosened up before starting big training efforts.
What are your tips for healing after a long or hard ride?
As your training progresses, you’ll likely have rides that really require you to challenge yourself. Within the first 30 minutes after a long ride (one hour or more) or a hard ride (up hills or pedaling 18 mph or more, where you really feel you are pushing your legs and your heart rate), consume a recovery drink that’s rich in carbohydrate and electrolytes and contains a bit of protein. If you’ve ridden several hours on a long training ride, sit down to a full meal within an hour of getting off the bike and continue to consume water throughout the day and evening.
If you have diabetes, check your glucose levels during and after exercise to help determine how much and what foods you should eat in accordance with your diabetes management plan. You will need to experiment with how much carbohydrate you need before, during and after long rides for optimal performance and blood glucose control. Don’t be afraid to ask your health care provider for guidance.
If you have chafing from your cycling equipment or shorts, I recommend applying lotion, petroleum jelly or an anti-chafing product to the affected areas before you ride and after you get out of the shower. You’ll accelerate the healing process so your skin isn’t raw the next time you get on the bike.
I enjoy cycling and always stretch out before and after I ride, but a friend told me that stretching isn’t really necessary. What does Chris think?
The science on stretching is not conclusive in either direction. Generally, I believe that range of motion is important to a strong pedal stroke and the ability to maintain a proper cycling position on the bike.
Some athletes have no trouble maintaining optimal range of motion in the hips, knees and lower back without stretching. Others struggle to remain limber enough to achieve their cycling goals. Yoga and Pilates are good options for both groups, however, and have additional stabilization and strengthening benefits.
For athletes with limited time and no acute injuries, I’d recommend addressing range of motion before worrying too much about stretching for stretching’s sake.
Are spinning classes also good exercise?
Indoor cycling classes can be an important component of an athlete’s training plan, especially in places where the weather forces you indoors for months at a time.
The best classes are cycling- or triathlon-specific, because the workouts themselves are more likely to be structured in a way that’s going to build fitness. The generalized classes that are neither taught by nor attended by cyclists or triathletes are good exercise, but they are less likely to actually translate to improved performance on the road or trail.
What cycling shoes will give me the most bang for my buck?
I use shoes custom-made for me because I spend a lot of time in cycling shoes and because I have a leg-length difference as a result of a skiing accident in 1986.
What you’re looking for, regardless of brand, is a shoe that fits snugly but doesn’t bind or pinch anywhere. You want a stiff sole, but also a shoe that’s comfortable enough to wear for long rides. Most cycling shoes are compatible with a wide range of pedal systems (so you can attach the cleats to the bottom of the shoe), but you should always check to make sure your new shoes will be compatible with your pedals.
Many thanks to Chris Carmichael for taking time to answer these questions from fellow riders! To register for your local Tour de Cure, visit tour.diabetes.org.
Thanks to all who ride with us to Stop Diabetes®!