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Jennifer Lewis contributed this thoughtful article to the Nevada Bicycle Coalition Blog:

The Importance of Measuring Heart Rate Variability for Cyclists

In the sports medicine and biofeedback fields alike, the buzzword is Heart Rate Variability (HRV): the change in the time intervals between Heart Brain Comm Paths
adjacent heartbeats, measured in milliseconds. A higher HRV variability indicates a low-stress state, while a low HRV suggests a greater need for rest, recovery and better sleep. As academics, Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. and Fred Shaffer, Ph.D. note, “An optimal level of HRV within an organism reflects healthy function and an inherent self-regulatory capacity, adaptability, or resilience.” A high HRV indicates, as it were, that the body is able to adapt to different stressors and challenges, though this measurement should not be too high – otherwise, you could be experiencing arrhythmia (a potentially dangerous condition which occurs when the electrical impulses that control heartbeats are not working properly). A cyclist’s HRV should be high enough to indicate that their central nervous system is communicating efficiently with the heart, and that the heart is able to make the tiny adjustments it needs. A high HRV shows that an athlete’s sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic (relax and recover response) are in sync.
As a cyclist, it is important to measure your HRV because the latter gives you vital information regarding the physical and mental stress you may be going through. For instance, those who are addicted to physical activity or who overtrain, can take a long time to discover the negative effects of pushing body and mind beyond its limits. Symptoms of overtraining may include reduced performance on your bike, soreness and stiffness, muscle wasting, fatigue and even adrenal exhaustion. However, by measuring your HRV, you can discover that you have been overtraining long before reaching these limits. A decreased HRV will show that it is much harder to increase your heart rate despite making greater efforts, and that your heart rate takes longer to recover post workout. In essence, a lowered HRV shows that your body is not adapting to stress as efficiently because it is overworked.

 

Current apps such as the Sweetbeat HRV app enable you to glean the connection between high stress and low HRV. Remember when using these apps that the aim is not always to aim for a very high HRV (since improving as a cyclist does involve putting your body through stress); rather, the aim is to swing between training hard and recovery, so that your body is not in a constant low-HRV state. The apps will help you clearly identify when you are under unhealthy stress levels, letting you know that you need to make necessary changes to your workout and lifestyle.

 

There are many steps you can take to increase your HRV in a healthy manner, for optimal performance as a cyclist. Top tips include:
• Balance your cycling and gym workouts with holistic exercises: Studies have shown that holistic exercise programmes incorporating exercise like yoga and Tai-Chi, used for thousands of years to enhance mental and spiritual (in addition to physical) health, have the uniquely powerful ability to lower levels of stress hormones. Yoga is additionally an ideal activity for those with a tendency to overtrain, since it employs techniques like controlled breathing and mindful meditation to curb anxious thought patterns and keep the mind in the present moment.
• Ensure you get enough sleep: Rest and sleep are vital if muscles which have been pushed to limits during workouts, are to recover. A good sign that you need a longer recovery period and better sleep is constant soreness (i.e. of the type which lasts beyond 72 hours after your workout). Another sign you have been pushing yourself too hard is decreased motivation or, on the contrary, having obsessive thoughts about cycling or your workout regime.

Heart Brain Comm Paths EKG
• Drink green tea: Studies have shown that green tea can increase the HRV, owing in part to L-theanine, one of its active compounds, which is capable of reducing sympathetic nervous activity.
• Find ways to curtail stress from your life: Chronic stress will do more than hamper your performance in cycling; it has also been linked to serious diseases like heart disease and Type II diabetes. Try to make the active lifestyle changes which are reasonable at this point in your life. These may include a change of job or profession, or eliminating relationships which cause more stress than good.
• Avoid polluted areas: Studies have shown that those who cycle in high pollution environments have a lower HRV. Try as much as possible to cycle in natural areas, since green environments have also been proven to lower cortisol levels and promote greater concentration, well-being and sports and academic performance.

From Terry:
The attached paper, published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, suggests that an athlete can use his mind as well as his body to improve his HRV and athletic performance.
“Emotional self-regulation strategies may contribute to improved client health and performance, alone, or in combination with HRV biofeedback training. Numerous studies have provided evidence that coherence training consisting of intentional activation of positive emotions paired with HRV coherence feedback may facilitate significant improvements in wellness and wellbeing indicators in a variety of populations.” Here is a link to that paper: https://www.heartmathbenelux.com/doc/HRV%20new%20perspectives%20on%20physiological%20mechanisms%20assessment%20of%20self%20regulatory%20capacity%20and%20risk.pdf

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Rollin McCraty quoted above, is employed by the Institute of HeartMath, which sells one of these heart rate variability feedback devices. HRV devices in addition to Sweetbeats HRV, include emWavePro, or Inner Balance for iOS devices (HeartMath, Inc, Boulder Creek, California), Relaxing Rhythms (Wild Divine, Boulder City, Nevada), and the Stress Resilience Training System (Ease Interactive, San Diego, California).

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Bicycling Vegas Style

Bridget – from Las Vegas

I used to spend the majority of my free time in the gym. I would finish work at 5:00 and go straight there. I generally wouldn’t arrive home until after 8:00. Sadly, I didn’t even enjoy my time there. It was claustrophobic working out alongside some many other sweaty people. I wanted a break from this hamster wheel of existence, but I couldn’t figure out how to get my exercise in a different way. Although I had heard of those who run outdoors or ride bikes through the city, these activities seemed dangerous to me. Fortunately, a move to Las Vegas changed my habits.City bike woman

Until I moved, I didn’t realize how much an individual’s place of residence can affect exercise habits. I never thought moving to Vegas would turn me into a proponent of outdoor fitness, but it did.

Upon first moving to Las Vegas, I figured I would have difficulty even getting a minimal amount of outdoor exercise. My notion of exercising outside in Sin City entailed drunks stumbling along the downtown strip. Fortunately, the city proved me wrong.

If a picture of the Las Vegas strip is firmly planted in your brain, it might be difficult to recall that the city lies at the center of the Mojave Desert. This natural wonder features miles of scenic bike trails, and I love exploring them. Of course, getting lost out there would be a travesty, so I use this amazing website to locate and navigate safe trails and help me get back home in one piece.

Did you know that Las Vegas has been named one of America’s Cycle-Friendly Cities? This acknowledgement from the League of American Bicyclists has come after the city spent half a million dollars on bike racks and lockers for the downtown area. Additionally, the city now boasts 390 miles of bike lanes.

Visitors can benefit from the fitness culture in Las Vegas as well. A search on this amazing resource will help you find activities and accommodations at hotels that cater to your individual fitness needs. Today, the city contains many hotels that feature great gyms for guests and provide a broad menu of fitness amenities. While staying here, you’ll also find that guest services at most hotels will be happy to point you toward nearby outdoor fitness venues.

Any fitness buff knows that exercise is only a part of the overall fitness picture. In Las Vegas, many healthy food and drink options have also become available. Juice bars can be found in any corner of the city. Those looking for vegetarian options and other healthy food choices will find a variety of restaurants available in most neighborhoods here, including downtown. It might seem hard to believe that Sin City has a healthy streak. Why not plan a trip here so you can see it for yourself?

Terry – from Reno

Wow, you’ve got to admire the enthusiasm of the recent convert! Bridget sounds like she just joined the Chamber of Commerce and drank the cool aide. That makes me smile. So much energy!

For me the best thing about Las Vegas is the people who are making Las Vegas a great place to ride. In particular, I’m thinking of Lisa Caterbone, Ron Floth and James Little.

Lisa Caterbone runs http://bikinglasvegas.com/. The site is a one stop shop at the intersection of Las Vegas and Bicycling. There’s a ride calendar, maps and cue sheets and a picture gallery with some great videos. Lisa has really done something special for Vegas cycling. Check it out.

Las Vegas bicycle jerseyRon Floth is the Bicycle and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (whew, that’s some title). Ron is the liaison between the RTC and Las Vegas Bicyclists. He’s the “go-to-guy” if you’re a roadie and have a bone to pick with the RTC in southern Nevada. The RTC is a key player in keeping Las Vegas a Bicycle Friendly Community.

James Little is head of the Las Vegas Valley Bicycle Club. Find them at http://lasvegasbikeclub.org/. There’s a potluck dinner on January 9th and plenty of rides on their website.

Bicycling is great in Las Vegas because people make it great!

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Contributed by Jennifer KnightImage

People start cycling for all sorts of different reason. Maybe it’s the need for a hobby, wanting to get out in the great outdoors, or as a social activity to enjoy with friends and family. While being an enjoyable activity in its own right, cycling is also a great way to get some exercise. In fact, regular cycling is tremendously beneficial to the human body, and helps to keep a person healthy in a number of different ways. Nevada has lots of great places to ride, and tour routes like Lake Mead, Sierra Shadow, and Comstock Country are just the tip of the iceberg.

A Healthy Heart and Healthy Mind

Your heart is the muscle that you need to take best care out throughout your life, so you will be pleased to know that cycling does nothing but good for it. Much research has been conducted into the health benefits of cycling, giving you plenty of reason to hop on that saddle and start peddling. Studies carried out by Purdue University revealed that regular cycling has the power to cut an individual’s risk of heart disease by a whopping 50%. The British Heart Foundation backs up this finding, with research found that by cycling 20 miles every week you are 50% less likely to suffer from heart disease than people getting no exercise.

You might think that cycling to improve mental health is a bit far-fetched, but enjoying a recreational activity while at the same time getting regular exercise goes a long way to reduce stress and depression. Cycling can even give your brain power a boost, according to a study carried out by Illinois University. Research subjects who improved their cardio-respiratory fitness by 5 percent scored up 15 percent better in subsequent metal tests. Professor Arthur Kramer, who led the study, explained the hidden benefits of cycling. “It boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which fires and regenerates receptors, explaining how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s.”

Strength and Stamina

Cycling is proven to build muscles strength and stamina, and does so without putting your muscles and joints under too much stress. Your leg muscles receive the biggest workout, and the low-impact repetitive nature of cycling is fantastic for the mobility and flexibility of your knee and hip joints. With regular cycling you can expect to see gradual improvements in leg muscle tone, including your thighs, hips, and backside.

The more you ride, thImagee longer you will be able to ride, as you stamina will improve with regular cycling. Even if you do not push yourself to cycle a little bit further every time, your stamina will improve without you even noticing it. Completing an hour cycle ride might leave you out of breath now, but by riding that same hour cycle ride every week for the next few months it will gradually become much easier to complete. The fact you are enjoying the cycle ride should mean that you want to ride further when you can, in turn building on that increased stamina again.

Tips for Post-Cycle Recovery

With such a hot and dry climate in Nevada, a long ride will probably leave you tired, sweaty, and aching. It is important to rest up and relax your muscle’s after a ride, but you also need to provide them with the protein they need for recovery and growth. Oily fish, white poultry meat like chicken and turkey, or egss are all a great source of protein. If you want to give you muscles a real boost post-cycle, adding an amino acid supplement to your diet can really help with building strength. It is also need to rehydrate your body, and replace all those lost electrolytes you have sweated out. Drinking an electrolyte replacement drink high in sodium, potassium and chloride will help to give back to your body what you lost while out cycling.

An Easy Way to Exercise

The beauty of cycling is that you can do it pretty much any time of year, along any road or trail you like, and it costs you nothing (apart from buying the bicycle in the first place!) You can insert riding into your daily life, whether you choose to ride to work, to the store, or an off-road trail on the weekend. It is very accessible form of exercise which doesn’t require you to join a team, or undergo lots of training to be able to do it. Once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget, so ride for life to stay healthy and happy.

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