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Ready, set, ride | Health beat

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Get ready for your best life on a bike with these tips from an expert. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Cycling increased during the pandemic.

New bikes rolled off the shelves.

Old bicycles were lowered from the rafters of the garage.

And many adults, in search of adventures close to home, rediscover the childhood joy of pedaling down the street.

Now, with travel restrictions relaxed, how do we keep the cycling momentum going?

A good option is to prepare for the MSU Gran Fondo, the bike ride against skin cancer organized by Michigan State University.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan event offers a fun challenge for riders of all abilities. Participants choose from various travel distances: 8-10 miles, 25 miles, 40 miles, and 80 miles.

Signing up for an event like the Gran Fondo can be a great motivator, said Gus Hemingway, an experienced cyclist and a Spectrum Health Athletic Trainer.

For 20 years, he has enjoyed cycling, running, and working on a bicycle.

“It’s the feeling of adventure that comes with being on the bike, the feeling of freedom to go where you want to go with the pedals,” he said.

And riding a bike is a great way to get in shape, providing both aerobic and strength exercise.

“Like swimming, cycling has very little impact,” Hemingway said. “Cycling is great for keeping the joints moving, but without impact.”

Although the legs do most of the work, riding a bike provides a full-body workout.

“You’d be surprised how much your core works and how much you use your arms for stability and direction,” he said.

Still, even with the joys and benefits of biking, it’s easy to let other priorities get in the way.

That’s where bike events like the Gran Fondo come in.

“If you don’t have any goals to look forward to, you can’t push yourself to go faster or faster or to get in better shape,” Hemingway said.

“There are always other things in our lives that can take precedence. If you have that event on your calendar, it will help you make it a priority. “

Getting ready for the trip

Hemingway offered tips for those preparing for the September event.

“For the beginner who wants to give it a try, it’s a good idea to try and ride consistently,” he said. “Drive a couple of times a week to try to build up your stamina and be prepared for it.”

For those with some experience in biking, he suggests joining a group ride. Local bike shops sponsor rides or can provide information on them.

“It is good to gain experience riding with a group of people who know what they are doing,” he said. “You can get a lot of technical knowledge riding with others.”

Experienced cyclists looking to improve might also consider hiring a local cycling coach, he added.

After a walk, he recommends stretching your legs, especially your hamstrings and quads.

The team matters

A few weeks before the event, Hemingway advises making sure your bike is in good working order. Get a tune-up if necessary.

“Make it a priority to inflate the tires and monitor tire inflation on the day of the trip,” he said.

As people increase their cycling miles, a common complaint arises: a sore seat.

“The best thing to do is ride in a comfortable pair of padded shorts,” Hemingway said.

A more comfortable seat is not the answer.

“A firm saddle is better for longer rides than a really soft saddle. It is more conducive to the bones of the seat, ”he said. “A soft saddle doesn’t provide as much support. If your body sinks into it, it rubs the wrong way. “

For those who ride the shortest distance, about 10 miles, on a comfortable bike, the softer seat is fine, he said. But it won’t work as well for those who travel longer distances.

For shoes and pedals, Hemingway prefers a clip-on system.

“You have a better idea of ​​what the bike is doing under you,” he said. “They are much more efficient. They keep the foot in the correct position on the pedal. “

But learning to ride with your shoes attached to the bicycle pedals takes practice.

“There is a learning curve. I always recommend going to a grassy field and practicing riding very slow eights. Practice releasing the pedals and lowering your foot to get used to feeling it. “

Hemingway also advises being prepared for a flat tire. Bring a spare inner tube, tire levers, and an air pump.

“Even if you don’t know how to change it, it’s nice to have the supplies you need in case someone can help you fix it.”

The big day

As you prepare for a big event, pay attention to nutrition. What food is good for you before the trip?

“When you start a big trip, you need to know how your body is going to handle what you have chosen to eat,” he said. Eat what you are used to eating. Don’t change things right before the event. “

Typically, you start with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, such as oatmeal with fruit.

Remember to drink lots of water. A good rule of thumb is to bring 20 ounces of water for every hour you drive.

If you arrive at a food station on your route and you’re hungry, grab a granola bar or cookie, he said.

“You are probably expending more calories than you think,” he said.

Last but not least, wear sunscreen, Hemingway said.

The MSU Gran Fondo raises funds for skin cancer research, making it a powerful reminder of the importance of sunscreen.


After the journey, feel good about what you have accomplished, whether you have reached your goal or not.

“Generally, after the fact, you look back and think, ‘It was a lot of fun setting it up and doing it,'” he said. “And if I didn’t finish, now I have a goal to finish next year.”

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