Archive for category health

The Secret of Cycling Pants Shorts | for Thomas

A friend sent me a message yesterday suggesting we meet up for a ride and that I teach him the secret of cycling pants. I’m not exactly sure what he was looking for (a explanation of why we wear Lycra? Or some secret to finding the right pants?) so I’m going to make a few assumptions, including that he meant “shorts.”

Like finding the right tire pressure or lubing chain or quality bearings, cycling shorts are all about FRICTION. Specifically the attempt to minimize FRICTION. When it comes to tire pressure or chain wear or crappy bearings friction is that annoying little beast that makes everything just a bit more difficult (of course a certain amount of friction, specifically between the tire and the tarmac, is required, but too much is…well…too much). Things are a bit more…urgent.

Just ask Tom Boonen.

Of course, a good pair of shorts offers other benefits, but none of them matter quite as much as the reduction of friction. So, buy a pair of shorts that fit and, for the love of everything good, get rid of the plush saddle.

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Riding again: Building up the miles

Hello again.

That title makes it sound like I’ve done loads. I haven’t. But what I have done is take a definitive step forward and started to ride a bit more regularly, and so far, without any excessive lower back spasms post-ride.

I’m through the first block of treatment, which lasted a month, where I was seeing Stefaan twice a week. In that time he has repeatedly manipulated my body, allowing me to stand up straight with a curve in my lower back where there should be one, but wasn’t 4 weeks ago. We’re backing off to one appointment per week now, and I’ve been given licence to ride again, as long as I don’t hit the hills yet, and I don’t treat the rides like individual time trials. In other words, go easy.

I’ve been on 3 rides since Thursday’s appointment, and I think the hardest thing I’m having to adjust to, besides my cardio fitness level being less than ideal, is that it’s psychologically tough going out on rides which feel long, hard and tiring, when I know that exact loop is so easy that it was just a short warm-up when I was fit and well. It’s making me impatient to get my fitness back. If nothing else so that I can look at some new scenery – there’s really only so many roads you can go on when your total ride length is limited to around 30km, before you have to start heading home again. It also isn’t helping my mental game that while using Strava at the weekend, I decided to upload ALL of my previous activities which were still saved on my Garmin, serving as a reminder if the volume of riding I used to be doing in 2009 & 2010. It’s pretty hard to stop measuring myself by the same yardstick.

It’s all mainly positive though, and while I’m not pain free, the pain I do have is less severe, doesn’t set in until later in the day, and isn’t bad enough to stop me getting on my bike like it was 2 or 3 weeks ago. Right now it’s as bad as it’s been all week, and that’s no doubt due to moving my edit suite/office to a different floor at work today, followed by the 27km ride I did when I got home. But it’s manageable with a hot water bottle & some co-codamol, and I’m just happy enough to have been out this evening turning the pedals over, watching a gorgeous sunset from the country lanes, counting the bunnies on the grass verges.

I’ve not put a proper training plan in place yet, but I’m trying to get out for at least an hour every other day just to build up some base miles and strengthen all the muscles around my new, improved spinal position.

Here’s my rides on Strava since Thursday:
Out & Back to Bredon
Riding around the lanes while I wait for my car to get serviced
G-Man’s loop

– Sera

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I came, I saw, I survived.

At the San Francisco Giants’ games of my youth the old men with browning hats filled with small orange pins were everywhere. They were the real fans. The fans that made Giants so much better than Dodgers fans. They were the fans that showed up and stayed until the bitter end. The Croix de Candlestick pins were proof.

As a kid I wanted nothing more than extra-inning baseball (bonus baseball!) and dreamed of earning myself a cap full of pins (not that I’d ever wear it, only the old guys did that). I know I must have earned at least one of the pins which were handed out for simply surviving the stick into extra innings on a night game, but I have no idea what I did with it.

Cycling can be like that too. We all have our stories of glory (or folly). Forty mile-per-hour winds. Rain. Fog. Temperatures below freezing. (The first organized ride I ever participated in was Bike around the Buttes and if you give me enough time, I’ll tell you about how there wasn’t even hot coffee left at the end!) Commuters can be the worst.

All winter people at work have to hear me say things like, “of course I rode today.” And, “oh, it isn’t that bad.” On rainy days I say, “the wind is the worst, at least it wasn’t windy.” And on windy days I say, “oh, well, at least it wasn’t rainy.” Mostly, I’m being honest. The weather really usually isn’t as bad as it seems. But there’s a little posturing too; men who wear Lycra in public will do that.

It happened to rain today. It was one of the few winter storms we’ve had all year. Today, I happened to drive to work. Those two things were not related.

I drove to work so that I might avoid passing out in the middle of my 8 mile commute. A thing I was worried about because illness had limited my food intake for the previous 48 hours to a few crackers, a few bites of pasta, and ½ bowl of soup. I was tired and weak and I really wasn’t sure if I’d survive. Also, my wife insisted.

So, I didn’t get Croix de Commute this morning. I’m forced to tell everyone that asks that, “no, I didn’t ride my bike today.” Instead I drove through the rain, stopped at Starbucks and walked through the back door of the office mostly dry. But, unlike those Croix de Candlestick pins which, unless they’ve started giving them out for merely suffering through an entire football game (the agony!), can’t be earned anymore, I can suffer through the elements another day. If I feel like it.

Update: Title added.

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Riding again: new goal.

Mont Ventoux. That’s my goal. Three ascents from three villages in one day. This September.

I had my first back treatment appointment with Stefaan Vossen earlier this afternoon, I’ve been given a shoe insert to help undo my imbalance and I’ve got another seven appointments booked in over the next 4 weeks, after which it’ll go down to 1 appointment per week. He’s confident he can not only get my back and pelvis re-set to how it should be, but that I’ll be able to start training in as little as 4 weeks.

That means, all being well with my back healing as my fitness gradually improves, I’ll have roughly from mid March until September to get myself in the shape of my life. Six months… Doesn’t seem like a lot. This is going to take some epic training effort and a lot of hill repeats on Cleeve Hill. I’ve never been more excited to put my body through hell, I wish I could get started now but I’ll have to make do with writing up a training plan. It’ll be a company trip to Mont Ventoux some time in September – I don’t yet know the date – with a couple of us Dair peeps taking some cycling-keen clients along for the ride.

Super, super excited. Can anyone point me towards a decent 6 month training plan for this sort of thing that I can adapt?


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Riding again: February update.

A couple of months have passed since my last post and I’ll be the first to admit those months haven’t really gone to plan.

I managed 3 or 4 short flat rides in December before succumbing to a huge increase in back pain, which I’ve been unable to get under control, even enough to spin my bike into work each day (it’s a 7 minute ride).

It knocked the wind out of me somewhat, and suddenly the idea of being fit by summertime felt rather depressingly unrealistic. I think I underestimated the problem a little bit.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as in January two metaphorical busses arrived at once, and I’ve jumped on one of them whole heartedly. The first was a chance to have a 1/2 hour chat with world leading sports physio Rob Harris, who after hearing the exact nature of my symtoms was fairly certain I had Spondylolisthesis (try saying that a few times, or at all). I can’t deny It was a massive relief to hear that there could be a tangible, nameable cause for 15 years of intermittent back pain, but on requesting copies of my low back X-Rays from 2009, it became clear that it’s not ‘Spondy’ after all. Square one. Sort of…

Then I had a chance encounter with an ex-England Rugby player Tim Stimpson, who was in our offices waiting for a meeting with the MD. We got chatting about chiropractors (I don’t like them very much based on the amount I’ve spent on them for no benefit) and he ended up contacting his friend and spinal physician who had helped him a great deal. Next thing I know, this guy is calling me up, very interested in my case, specifically because the length of time I’ve had the problem, and the amount of specialists I’ve seen who did no good. He prides himself on finding what other people missed, and fixing the issues. In fact his clinics are the only ones in the country to offer an insurance-backed money back guarantee on his treatment. i.e. at least 70% improvement in your condition or your money back.

Not that money matters, he gave me a free assessment and on the back of it, he offered to give me a full round of treatment at no cost. Apparently I’m the kind of case he likes to take on pro bono, can’t complain about that.

Now I’m awaiting my next appointment in 10 days time, and the onslaught of 3-4 weeks with 2 appointments per week, plus plenty of ‘homework’ exercises. After that it’ll be 1 appointment per week for a while, gradually seeing him less & less over the coming months. Stefaan is confident that I will be fully able to ride and train again by the summer time, which is the best I could have hoped for.

There is a hint of a big ride coming up in September, as part of a team with the guys I work with. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it’s not working.

Bring on the healing.

– Sera

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¿Has probado a usar la bici?

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you call that exercise?

From our spam:

riding a bike is not a wkuoort. Exercise?you call that exercise? You sit down then move your feet in a little circle.


Bikes will save us

Biking And Health
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree –


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get out of that car

Not long after reading that Senator Barbara Boxer (D – CA) and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is trying to make it more difficult to ride your bike, GOOD pointed me to this study that was published by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study looked a the benefits of reducing car usage for short urban and suburban trips:

Reductions in PM2.5 related mortality across the Midwest are shown in Figure 2a, with the total impact across the 37,000 square mile region being 433 fewer deaths. Asthma exacerbations would decrease annually by over 2,000 cases. Also, there would be approximately 75 fewer COPD cases, while net respiratory symptoms, hospital admissions and ER visits would decrease by 93,607 cases annually. For cardiovascular disease, there would be approximately 660 fewer cases of non-fatal AMI and hospital admissions. Savings from reduced annual mortality would reach almost $3.5 billion.

Oh, and:

Based on WHO HEAT, we estimated that completing 50% of short trips by bicycle would result in average annual savings over $2.5 billion for short suburban bicycle trips and nearly $1.25 billion for short urban trips (Table 3), for a total of approximately $3.8 billion in benefits across an estimated population of 2 million people, and a reduction in premature mortality of almost 700 deaths per year.

If you’re keeping track that’s $7 billion/year in savings just by replacing a car with a bike for half of all short trips.

In this context what kind of sense does legislation that makes it more difficult to ride a bike make sense? Perhaps we should make it more difficult to drive.

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Seattle follows Portland by expanding bike lanes. Can Sacramento follow?

New bicycling initiatives being launched in Seattle echo successful projects in Portland, and could influence similar decisions in Sacramento. The new “greenways” being planned in several Seattle neighborhoods will take cyclists off busy arteries and through re-designed side streets, where speed-bumps, modified sidewalks and curbs, and special stop-signs will give priority to cyclists as well as pedestrians.

The first greenway will run through the Wallingford district of north-central Seattle, and advocates hope to develop further greenways in at least three other neighborhoods. The city takes its cue from it’s southern neighbor, progressively pro-bike Portland, which has more than thirty greenways, and which predicts that 80% of city residents will live within half a mile of a greenway by 2015.

The initiatives in place in Portland and Seattle put to shame the efforts in Sacramento, which claims to be a bike-friendly city but which has pitifully few dedicated bike lanes, no greenways, and an outdated but muscular pro-car bent. The region’s single saving concession – the American River Trail – was established decades ago, and has not been expanded or improved upon since, despite expansion and realignment of the city’s commercial and residential areas.

The Portland greenways cost an estimated $250,000 per mile, an expense which Seattle hopes to recoup through an additional car-tab fee of $60. Over ten years, the tax would raise more than $200 million for additional transportation projects to help promote cycling and walking in the city.

In cash-strapped, pro-car Sacramento, the possibility of introducing a levy on motor-vehicles to pay for bike-lane improvements or greenways seems unlikely. Many of the region’s essential roads are in disrepair and further cuts to the DOT budget are pending.

However, as pro-cycling advocates frequently point out, cycling has cost benefits that reach far beyond the immediate advantages for keen bike-commuters. An active citizenry which solves its own economic and health problems by choosing to commute via bicycle instead of motor-vehicle injects vitality and treasure into the local economy, and may even go so far as to improve the desirability of residential property in the region.

Bike lanes and greenways can’t fix every problem that plagues Sacramento, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous, and worthy of further consideration.

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