Cycling can get a little scary at times, especially on busy roads or technical race courses. If you find that your training and racing is being hindered by a lack of bike handling skills and nervousness on the roads, we're here to help.
Practice your bike handling skills
This is something that all cyclists should be doing in order to improve their training and racing. If you lack proper bike handling skills, you will find that technical courses are a nightmare and that unforeseen circumstances like bad weather could mean a premature end to your race.
Skills such as riding on loose gravel, on wet roads, down steep descents, and round sharp bends are things that come with practice. Start off slow and somewhere you know well and build yourself up; the more you practice, the more your confidence will grow. Other skills such as single-leg riding can be practised indoor on a Wattbike, turbo trainer, or even just a stationary gym bike.
Ride in a group
They say there's safety in numbers, and this can certainly be true when cycling. When cycling in a fairly large group, you'll find that hazards become less scary as you can watch those up ahead tackle them first and motorists should give you more space.
Of course, that's not to say that cycling in a group is always safer and that you're guaranteed not to have run-ins with cars. However, working together as a team to overcome tough conditions can really help with your confidence.
Other skills to practice when riding in a group include making contact with other cyclists and riding very close to others. Your instinctive reaction when touched by another cyclist will be to look around at the person you've touched, but it's important to stay looking ahead at where you're going. Practice making quick contact with a friend or fellow group rider and then move on to practising keeping your hand on their shoulder as you ride. Skills such as this can improve your confidence in mass start events and will mean you know what to expect.
Get comfortable in the saddle
Receiving a proper bike fit from an accredited bike store can make a huge difference to your cycling, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Unless you're looking to really maximise your power output and aero position for serious racing, a basic bike fit can be inexpensive or even free of charge.
If you're comfortable in the saddle and your position over the handlebars feels good, you will feel much safer on the bike. If you constantly feel like you're over-reaching for the handlebars and brakes or that your legs are overstretched and you can't reach the ground comfortably, you might feel more nervous on your bike. Once you feel secure and like the bike is an extension of yourself, you will be able to handle it much more confidently and co-operate better together. Make sure you're in control of the bike and not the other way round!
Do a sportive
If you're nervous to ride on busy roads or in places you don't know well, it's a good idea to ride an organised race or sportive. These will always be well sign-posted so that you can't go the wrong way and you will be forced to face any challenging conditions that you'd usually avoid on your own.
This will be a great way of getting out of your comfort zone by riding somewhere unknown and having to face challenges head-on.
Physical exercise has an enormous effect on my mental well-being and I am sure that's the case for a lot of people reading this too. It allowed me to stop taking anti-depressants and instead of relying on a pill each day for endorphins, I decided it would be better in the long run to replace them with natural and simple exercise.
I reinforce this with other things; practising mindfulness, not rushing, going to bed early, and eating more vegetables! But overall, I feel happy that this is a better way for me to cope with my depression and anxiety. It’s important to talk and I find that being open about my experiences encourages others to do the same. It’s too easy to hide issues away and forget they exist, but that’s not healthy and at some point down the line they will resurface and be even more difficult to deal with.
The knowledge we have of the benefits of physical exercise has grown and a quick search through research papers shows just how much evidence there is to suggest that exercising can be seen as medication or therapy in its own right. Even Sport England now has mental well-being ‘at its heart’ of its current strategy. Doing any kind of physical activity, whether it be yoga, climbing or running, is proven to improve mood, reduce stress, better your self-esteem and help to manage or even prevent depression and anxiety.
So it’s a no-brainer right? It should be. But with all the knowledge in the world, it can still be hard to make the time or find the motivation to get your heart-rate up.
So what can we do to help ourselves not skip out on mental health therapy? I struggle when it’s early morning, dark, cold and I’m in bed, but here’s what I find helps me:
- I’m an independent person but I can feel isolated at times. Having like-minded people to support, motivate, and exercise with me is good for me. Therefore, I choose to be around those people and limit my time around those who do not fit this ideal.
- I highly value having a goal and a step-by-step plan of how to get there. For me, that means sitting down with a flipchart (plus bright pens) and writing out a triathlon training plan for my bedroom wall. Without one, I’d be stumbling around in the dark mentally and probably physically too. Being able to see the progress I make fills me with motivation each day.
- I’m more interested in new experiences and opportunities that will aid my personal development and ultimately enrich my life. However, I take care not to take too much on and I’m okay with saying no when things get too much. So if anyone needs a kayaking buddy, I’m itching to try it and maybe enter a cool adventure race!
It’s a no-brainer to help yourself and others who may struggle with mental health, but I think we can do it better, even in the most simplest of ways, and sport provides us with a huge platform to help make more of a difference and to put our health first.
About the author: Alister Brown is a coach with Tri Energy Triathlon Club and an advocate for mental health awareness.
Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. How can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a home workout for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be. Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories too. If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun. If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking to the local park or playground. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car.
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Home workout routine for parents
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this home workout routine by Sundried ambassador and personal trainer Carly Newson.
Looking to get a great workout done at home? Make sure you have all the kit you need!
Looking for a quality skipping rope? Buy the Sundried Skipping Rope for £20 with free delivery.
Skipping is a fantastic way to get fit and stay fit, even when you don't have access to a gym or even the outdoors. It's compact and can be done anywhere – indoors or outdoors. Skipping will raise your heart rate, improve your fitness, and tone your body. Read on to find out how to skip properly and try our beginner skipping workout to get started.
Is Skipping A Good Form Of Exercise?
Skipping is a fantastic workout and can burn up to 10 calories per minute if done at a high intensity! In order to get skilled at jumping rope, it's important to practice and to break it down into sections.
Let’s start with the jumping. When most people start skipping for the first time they jump too high, just going for it and doing what feels natural without any knowledge on proper technique. But skipping too high is not efficient for a workout and will leave you unable to skip for longer than a few seconds.
When skipping, the key is to not actually jump. Wait, what? That’s right! If you change your mindset about what your feet are doing, it becomes a lot easier. Instead of jumping, think about doing a calf raise. Practice doing it without the rope to start: raise your heels so that you are on the balls of your feet, and then lower yourself back down using your calf muscles. You’ll soon realise there’s a reason why boxers have such defined calves! You may need to increase the strength and stamina in these muscles before skipping feels easy. Take your time and enjoy the process.
Once you’ve practised a few times without the rope, try applying this technique with the rope. You should only come a few centimetres off the floor on each bounce. Keep your ankles loose and feel the balls of your feet flex. See if you can keep it up for 30 seconds without stopping.
After your feet, what you do with your arms is the most important part of skipping. Hold the handles near the rope-end as this is the most efficient and will allow the rope to swing better. Keep your wrists loose, and your elbows close to your hips. It is a very subtle movement; you do not want to be swinging your whole arm, just a slight movement of the wrist. It will be tempting to tense your arms and lock them by your sides, so try to relax from the shoulder.
This moves us onto your posture. Make sure you are standing tall, with your shoulders pulled back and down, and your core and glutes tight. The key to skipping is to relax! If you are skipping for the first time in a gym or a public place, it may be a little daunting, and you may worry about tripping in front of everyone. Let go and have fun and try not to take it too seriously, at least while you are starting out. The looser and more relaxed you are, the less likely you are to trip over and you are less likely to incur an injury.
Is Skipping A Good Cardio Workout?
Skipping is a surprisingly demanding cardio workout! If you are skipping for the first time as an adult, you will be shocked by how out of breath you get on your first try! Don’t let this deter you, take your time. If you are new to fitness altogether, then you may wish to just skip in 20-30 second bursts. If you are a seasoned gym-goer, then skipping for intervals of 60 seconds may be more for you. Try our skipping workout plan and see what works for you! Or create your own jump rope routine. Supplement your skipping with leg exercises and mobility drills so that you do not get injured, especially if you are not used to exercising. Skipping has the fantastic benefit of being great for weight loss and by adding skipping into your existing gym routine you can expect to burn up to 10 calories a minute.
Where To Jump Rope
Where you choose to do your skipping is important too. If you are skipping outdoors, try to avoid jumping on concrete as this can be harsh on the joints. Skipping on softer tarmac or grass will be better. If you are indoors, avoid carpet as this can make the rope more likely to bounce which can cause you to twist your ankle. Hardwood floors are the perfect surface on which to jump rope.
How Long Should You Jump Rope For A Beginner?
When I first got back into skipping as an adult, I was really put-off by the fact that I couldn’t do it well. I saw lots of people in the gym skipping with ease and doing neat tricks so it deflated me somewhat that I was finding it so hard. But don’t let this be the case! After only a few sessions my technique improved hugely and skipping started to feel a lot more natural. Take your time, enjoy it, and maybe even let us know how you get on by leaving a review of the Sundried skipping rope on our website!
Beginner Skipping Workout
Skip for as long as you can, rest for 60 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes.
Skip for as long as you can, rest for 45 seconds, repeat for 7 minutes.
Skip for 20 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes.
Gym cross-training - leg, ab, and back exercises
Skip for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes
Skip for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 10 minutes.
You've certainly seen photos and videos of athletes grimacing in an ice bath after a tough training session or a race, but is it actually beneficial? And is it right for you? We take a look at whether it's best to take a hot or cold shower after exercise.
Benefits of a cold shower after exercise
There are many benefits of applying cold water or ice to the body after it has experienced stress and strain, such as after a workout or race. Being cold makes your blood vessels contract which prevents swelling and bruising. It also numbs your nerve endings which provides you with instant pain relief. This is why we use ice packs when we get injured.
Exercise inflames the body and inflammation is never a good thing. Cold water acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help you to recover quicker after a workout. A very cold shower or ice bath could also reduce the DOMS (aching muscles) you experience after a workout as it speeds up the recovery process and helps the muscles to repair.
Why do athletes use ice baths?
Studies have shown that immersing yourself in an ice bath reduces the inflammation and swelling experienced after exercise. When you train, your muscles develop micro tears which is what then stimulates them to repair and grow stronger. Exposure to extreme cold such as that of an ice bath can help to repair these tears and speed up the recovery process.
There are many athletes around the world who use ice baths after a match or workout. GB heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill is even known to stand in a wheelie bin full of ice to help her legs recover!
Benefits of a hot shower after exercise
Some more premium gyms offer steam rooms, saunas, and hot tubs for after your workout. While this may seem like it's just to relax, there could be some benefit to it. While exposure to cold reduces your blood flow and constricts blood vessels, exposure to heat does the opposite. So spending 20 or so minutes in a sauna post workout will increase the blood flow to your muscles. This can help to disperse any built up lactic acid and release it from the muscles. Not only this, hot water and steam relax your muscles and relieve body tension which can be perfect for unwinding after a furious workout.