Dealing with aches and pains during Cycle September

River Wey, St Catherines Lock
Communications Officer, Christina Bengston is one of 42,400 people who have signed up to Cycle September so far, but she's struggling with motivation and aching muscles. This week she spoke to Tom Callingham, Fitness Manager at Nuffield Health for advice.

Why am I so achy? 

As the mid way point of my Cycle September challenge approaches, I am struggling with the aches and pains that I've had since the beginning of the month. I sat down with Tom Callingham, Fitness Manager at my local Nuffield Health centre for some advice. 

"Do you stretch?" Tom asks me after I describe my daily seven mile commute. I admit that I don't. 

Tom explains how stretching before and after we exercise can have a huge impact on how much pain we then experience. As the majority of my pain is in my legs he suggests foam rolling, concentrating on the hamstrings and IT bands. 

If you're not familiar with the dreaded foam roller then watch this short video below. The majority of gyms will have foam rollers available for members to use but if you'd like to invest in one yourself they can be bought for around £5. 


Why do we get tight muscles?

"It's down to lactic acid and not being able to flush it out of your system," Tom explains.

"When you stop cycling, you're sitting straight down at your desk which means the lactic acid stays in your legs. If you can keep moving for a little bit after your ride, all the time your muscles are contracting you're encouraging the lactic acid to flush through. It's the lactic acid causing the soreness.

"It isn't necessarily because you're over exerting yourself but because you're not cooling down, you're not stretching, I'd say it's probably down to that."

Advice on how to warm up and cool down

Delayed onset muscle soreness - DOMS

If you're experiencing more severe pain after cycling or the pain is coming on around 24 hours after exercising (known as DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness) then Tom advises that you should consult a fitness professional to get more advice. 

"It could be down to lots of different things," Tom said. "Sure, it can be that if you've gone from nothing to a lot of exercise instead of building up gradually. It can be down to what you're doing, how you're doing it or that you're not stretching. But, if it is really bad then just come and speak to any trainer. Have a chat, tell them what you're doing and they'll be able to tell you what's going on." 

Do I need rest days?

Always eager for an excuse to relax, I asked Tom whether I needed rest days. The answer wasn't exactly what I was looking for.

If you're looking to increase your fitness and general wellbeing there's no reason at all why you can't go for a seven mile ride every day, absolutely.

Tom Callingham

"There's lots of variables, it depends what your goal is, what you're training for, how you're training, how fit you are, what you've done prior, if you've got any medical conditions and the intensity of the exercise.

"So it's down to a lot of different things but I would say that if you've gradually built up to exercising every day and if you're looking to increase your fitness and general wellbeing there's no reason at all why you can't go for a seven mile ride every day, absolutely."

Well there goes my excuse to rest. 

After speaking with Tom I've realised that I may have thrown myself into this challenge without that much planning. I'm cycling 14 miles, five days a week. While I may not be setting any commuting records, it's certainly been a challenge, but one now I feel a little more prepared for.

Next steps

In addition to my new sleep hygiene regime I'll now be factoring in some daily pre and post cycle stretching exercises. I'll post an update on my progress next week. 

If you'd like some examples of stretches you can do, you can find some below:

My journey

Despite my aches and struggles to drag myself out of bed I've absolutely loved my cycle rides to work. I've selected a few images to capture my favourite route, along the River Wey.

Share your commute photos with us on Instagram using #BestByBike. 

Map your own cycle route to work using our journey planner.

Cycle September

Cycle September run by Love to ride challenges individuals and their workplaces to compete against each other in a worldwide event to raise the profile of cycling and help get more people on bikes. 

You can ride anywhere, anytime and encourage others to do the same to earn points. The more points you earn, the further you climb the leaderboards and the better your chances are of winning prizes.

Sign up to Cycle September

An update on my progress and sleep hygiene

If you read my blog last week you'll know that waking up early is not something that comes easily to me. However thanks to some brilliant tips from the Sleep Council it has been getting easier. I've made a small adjustment to my routine and have stopped looking at screens for an hour before bed which has really helped get me back into a better sleep pattern.

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