Since this is a cycling blog, after yesterday’ distractions in watching how my local community were keeping themselves entertained during the lockdown, I am returning to the subject of exercise with a focus on cycling in particular
Exercise – the boring bits from the Government
The Government has decided that during this lockdown, they still want the country to be able to get some exercise outside – hurrah!. But, we are restricted in how we can do this
The general guidelines are
- You can leave the house to exercise (ie run, walk, cycle) once per day only
- You must exercise alone or with members of your household only
- You must be at least 2 metres apart from anyone else
- You should minimise the time spent outside of the home.
Exercise – what can you do?
But what does this mean in practice? Well, this has been open to much debate, especially around the cycling community.
Some feel that as long as they don’t see anyone, then that means that they can go for as long and as far as they want if as they only do it once a day. But I have an issue with that as I don’t feel it’s necessarily within the spirit of what is being requested for a variety of reasons. The request was to minimise the time spent outdoors, but also not to travel unnecessarily. So to me, it makes sense that durations of an hour or two fit with that. Also, and most crucially though, there are millions of people doing exactly what the Government has asked, and that is to stay indoors. Also, there are thousands of health workers putting their own lives on the line, to treat the sick at the moment, that don’t get much free time, and when they do, spend it searching empty supermarkets or sleeping. I think they deserve our respect and solidarity. Why should we selfishly push the fact that we have been allowed to exercise to its limits and risk that privilege being taken away from us due to abuse, or in a worse case scenario, needlessly having to call the emergency services or catch a train?
However, it appears that I might have been wrong. It does happen once in a while
One question posed to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove was on the issue of the length of exercise, and the response was “people can go for the standard length of run or walk that they ordinarily would have done. But the important thing is, once a day”
So there you have it. Make your own mind up
But what about self-isolation?
There can be any number of reasons why you might be in self-isolation and not leaving the house, so what can you do then if you don’t have any symptoms and you want to keep your fitness up.
If you don’t have a turbo trainer and you want to purchase one, they are still available via mail order – but beware some retailers (such as Evans Cycles) have significantly bumped up their prices. Also, when the lockdown was imminent, sales of secondhand trainers peaked until there were hardly any to be had. I admit that I did a panic buy an upgrade to mine and got lucky early last week, and the one it replaced was sold to a friend within minutes.
However, if you have a turbo trainer you have endless options available to you, thanks to the fitness industry’s willingness to give away many of their online services for free during the crisis. Great business for them ultimately as they hook in future customers to their monthly plans.
If you like riding with company, then Zwift is probably for you. You can enter virtual races, or join pre-planned rides hosted by others. You can virtually chat with people on the ride, although I think I’d rather focus on the task in hand rather than trying to text at the same time. Call me old-fashioned but I haven’t quite mastered riding and texting. There was also an issue last week regarding bandwidth when the site crashed – a victim of its own success. For this reason, I have yet to actually do a full session, although the Hubster seems to be getting along with it just fine. I hear all sorts of grunting noises coming from the pain cave…I think it’s Zwift he’s watching!
I have yet to fully investigate all it’s capabilities as I’ve been a Sufferfest fan historically. With Sufferfest, you have a choice of training rides with real-world video and great background music. I do really like this, and you are pushed hard on the various rides. It is a serious training app, but with great views to take your mind off the fact that you are indoors and not in the Dolomites.
Another Zwift contender that is being given free for the moment is RGT cycling. Apparently, you can set up groups of friends, and load up your own rides. I am going to investigate this in more depth this weekend, so I’ll report back later.
If it’s your weekly Spin class that you’re missing, how about getting the Les Mills app. If you are/were a member of a leisure centre that has had to close, many have a deal with Les Mills for free access to lots of their classes. The Trip and RPM are two such spin classes that are available on Les Mills, so they might be worth a shot. And the beauty of these classes is that you can use even a basic turbo trainer to get the benefit.
But I don’t have a turbo trainer, what can I do instead?
Well, at the moment you are still allowed out to ride. So get outside and enjoy a few miles on your bike. We might not get that luxury indefinitely, so enjoy it while you can. If you aren’t comfortable riding alone or getting out into the countryside without friends, then you could select somewhere locally, and do loops. It’s not exciting but it keeps you riding. Imagine you are riding somewhere more interesting, or go back to a time when you rode somewhere fabulous, or remind yourself of when you will be able to ride your next event to keep the motivation going.
But, in addition to your outdoor riding, you could start doing some indoor strength work. I have found that regular strength and conditioning work has been just as important to my fitness as being on the bike. If you normally focus all of your training on two wheels, then you’ve been missing out on developing your powerhouse.
Again, strength work features on the Sufferfest app, so if you do have a Turbo, it could be worth investing in this app as a really good all-round training app.
If you browse Google or YouTube you will find numerous PT’s offering strength training video classes. Focus on those that work on glutes, core, hip flexors etc. You’ll most likely find yourself doing lots of squats, with and without weights. Working out with weights such as kettlebells is great for women anyway, especially the older we get. If you don’t believe me just ask Dr. Stacy Sims. In fact, in her book ROAR, there are lots of suggestions for training that is great for cyclists
Can cycling make you more susceptible to illness?
We all want to stay healthy through this pandemic, and it’s a fact that certain intensities of exercise can mean that our immune systems have to work harder.
If you are exercising for an hour or two, and this is normal for you, then there is no reason to believe that your immune system will adversely suffer. However, now is not the time to keep up with the same intensity if you’ve been in ultra event training.
Whilst it is well proven that moderate exercise bolsters our immune systems, there is also evidence that too much isn’t necessarily a good thing. Many of us like to test ourselves and see just how far we can go before we break. But, when we get to that breaking point, we use up our reserves. It takes time for us to recover, and our defences are low for a while. In the current climate, low defences are a sure way for us to pick up this virus and be less able to fight it off. Don’t leave yourself if this position.
Most coaches will advocate lowering the intensity of your training at the moment. I know that mine has. In fact, he sent the following graphic to his trainees which is a great illustration showing how to be sensible and train safely.
I hope you’ve found this informative, and that you are staying strong and training safely