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Bike Talk: Cycling Along Your Cycle

16 November, 2017

For the longest time, I had accepted that for a few days out of the month, I was going to struggle on my bike. I cycled through but slower, aching, and longing to skip commutes and rides. For a lot of women, the weeks leading up to and during menstruation leaves us exhausted and unable to perform our best on our rides. Many of us have written off cycling during the menstrual phase but taking a whole week off can be a damper to our training goals. Our menstrual cycles are complex, intricate, and for some unpredictable to plan training around, however, learning how our hormones affects our bodies can help us better plan cycling along our cycles.

Female hormones play a significant role in a variety of aspects related to hydration, nutrition, performance and recovery.  Therefore, as women who participate in a endurance sport, it would benefit us to dig in to the science of our unique physiology and use it to our advantage. Here are some insights to knowing your flow and how to use the cycle phases to get the most your our training.

Know Your Flow
By knowing your cycle you will be able to predict the day your period will arrive. By tracking your cycle, you are better equipped to plan and optimize training and rest days. As you track it, you're able to notice patterns in your cycle as it relates to sleep, diet, training, stress, and more. Personally, I use the Aunt Flo Period Tracker and without fail, I can predict my period and track my hormonal phases for when to crank up or back off on the volume of training sessions. Our bodies are different day to day, so tuning in is essential to learning how to work with your flow.
Sync with Your Cycle
Getting a sense of what's going on during your cycle–and how that affects your training–can help you evaluate and adjust your training and recovery. If you're needing a reminder on what’s happening physiologically during each phase... read this. Syncing training or any activity with your cycle will not just help training and recovery but also your health and wellbeing. Planning with my flow has saved me a lot of time and discomfort. When those first two days of aching and heavier bleeding arrive, I plan those as rest days. The third day after, I get back on the saddle and feel stronger to tackle my next challenge. 

Now here is the educational part of the cycle phases and how to work with each. Take note that I am no expert or doctor but I am very educated on this front and part with you what I have learned from my personal experience and what I have researched from the experts to help myself. From duration, what you'll be feeling, to insights on how to use these hormonal fluctuations to your advantage, I hope these insights can help you understand your body better and plan to train to get the most out of each phase as you cycle to a stronger you.

Phases One and Two: Follicular Phase and Ovulatory Phase
Duration: 7-14 days, right after menstruation
Cycle Scope: You’ll experience a boost in energy levels.
Insight: This is a good time to increase mileage and intensity or introduce new challenges like hill repeats, longer mileage, and higher volume training. If you have a race scheduled during this time, take advantage of the extra pep in your step!Phase Three: Luteal (Premenstrual) Phase
Duration: 10-14 days
Cycle Scope: Your energy levels decline slowly throughout this phase, so running effort levels may feel harder than normal. For instance, your breathing and heart rates may be higher than usual when you run your normal training paces.
Insight: During this phase it's useful to focus efforts on technique and lowering volume of intensity. Try restorative yoga, easy effort runs, cross-training, and shorter endurance rides. This is the time to tap into what your body needs–rest, recovery, and restoration. Nutritionally, consume a little more protein and branched-chain amino acid’s before exercise and bump up your carbohydrate intake through the end of Phase Four.
Phase Four: Menstrual Phase
Duration: 3-7 days
Cycle Scope: This is the most recognizable of all the phases. You may feel like avoiding your bike, tired, legs feel like they weigh a ton, or crave specific foods. Your workouts may hurt more than normal, and you may have a warmer body temperature, higher breathing and heart rates at your normal pace during the early to mid-stages of this phase.
Insight: Your body is craving rest, sleep, nurturing, so log extra sleep and take it easy on your rides. If possible, swap in an extra restorative yoga class, lower impact workout like recovery rides, walking, swimming, or a short run. You may feel more fatigued during workouts, too. This is especially true if you struggle with harsh symptoms. Although it may feel like a loss, instead, think about it more as a time to allow the body to heal and grow stronger. 

An important note: If you're plagued by cramps, don't take NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory drugs just before or during exercise since they interfere with kidney function. Instead, go for a run or easy ride to ease the pain. I know the last thing we want to do is exercise but it can help lower prostaglandins (read about prostaglandins here) which can help ease cramps and boost your mood.

While it's important to stay active and mindful of the difference in our female physiology, it's also crucial to pay attention to the full picture — including taking rest days when needed, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep to fully recover to come back on the saddle stronger.

Images 1. @MachinesForFreedom / 2. @AuntFlo / 3. @Jay_Tok

Spin Class Essentials

14 November, 2017

Since my last post about What You Need To Know About Cycling Studios, you've had time to test an indoor cycling class to see if you would like it. If you did, now is the time to take the guesswork out of what to pack in your spin class bag. Packing just the right amount, you can ensure that you have all of your workout essentials without feeling weighed down on your commute to class. When it comes to packing for spin, it really is all about keeping it simple.
By knowing what to pack for spin, you can go confidently into your spin class knowing that you have all the essentials you need before and after your session. How relaxing is that? This round-up of spin essentials can help you comfortably move onto becoming a spin enthusiast or you can use it as a gift guide for that spin/cycling enthusiast in your life for the holidays. So, before you head to your next session, or add anything to your holiday wish-list, make sure you add these 10 workout essentials into your spin bag, or... um... Christmas shopping cart. 
Breathable Top With Coverage -  In an indoor cycling class, you’re slightly bending at the hip and leaning over the entire class – the last thing you want is your top clinging to sweat and climbing up your back, cramping your style. Opt for a top with breathability and maximum coverage, like Lululemon's Sculpt Tank with mesh fabric and panels that keep you cool, so all you have to worry about is wiping off the sweat from the bike after class.
Hi-Rise Tight Shorts might be ideal in a hot yoga class or on a run, but you’ll want to keep them away from the spin room…trust me. If you’re set on being as breathable and dry on a spin bike, opt for Lululemon's Iconic tight that was made for a high rise fit so they don't slip down and show your bottom and sweat as you bend over the bike. Made with moisture wicking mech and fabric for some serious sweating, you'll be glad for these.

Supportive Bra - There is nothing worse for us ladies in spin class than bouncing around on the saddle with no support (at least for me!). I particularly sweat a lot on my chest and back so having a breathable supportive bra like Lululemon's Invigorate Bra with mesh ventilation on the back and cooling material keeps me looking and feeling dry without compromising support.
HR Monitor Watch Monitor you effort with an activity-tracking GPS and Heart Rate Monitor watch like the Fitbit Charge 2 to help you achieve your goals. At the end of a workout you can track your calories burn, elevation gain, heart rate zones, and % of effort output spent in a zone. I use this especially for tracking my rides, progress, and time I spend in my heart rate zones to help me achieve my overall health goals.
Water-bottle + Electrolytes You’ll be sweating a lot, which means you’ll need to stay hydrated. I love bringing my MFF cycling water bottles and adding Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration to my water to replace all those electrolytes I'm sweating out, plus it helps increase power output, improves endurance, and overrides premenstrual performance decline so that I can increase resistance and push through those long climbing intervals without slowing down and giving in.

Fringe Fighter Headband While indoor cycling is a low-impact activity, you’ll still be moving around in and out of the saddle – and get plenty sweaty. Be sure to secure your hair with some no-snag hair bands and keep your sweat and fringe away from your face with this fringe fighter and sweat absorber headband.

Towel - You're body will sweat but also be aware of slippery handlebars as it can create a dangerous if you slip off. Lay a mid-sized towel over your bike’s handlebars to keep your hands in place and help you wipe your face to stay dry during your class. Make sure your towel is long enough to cover the handlebars’ length, but short enough that it doesn’t get in your way!
Gym Tote - Opt for a medium-sized tote bag that can help you carry your spin-cessories in style. Luckily, the new wave of active-wear that’s has gone on trend has created new waves of functional and chic gym totes, like the Lululemon's All Day Tote, that I’d gladly sport long after I'm through with spin class.
MFF Day Break Jacket - Often times (especially in the early morning and afternoon), the spin studio will be a bit chilly when you first walk in. Don’t worry, you’ll warm up soon enough. But until then, keep a light and breathable jacket handy – one you can easily slip off post-warm up with no fuss and slip on when you have to dash. I'm absolutely wild over my Machines For Freedom Day Break Jacket which is breathable, light, and carries all my essentials from keys, phone, headphones, post spin protein bar, and towel.
TIEM Athletic Spin Shoes - Investing in a pair of indoor cycling shoes should be first on your to-do list. I always have my TIEM Athletic spin shoes with SPD cleats that fit directly into the spin bike’s pedals. What's great about these is that I don't have to take them off after class as they are useful for walking and running too! If you’re just trying out indoor cycling for the first time and don’t want to invest quite yet, make sure you wear hard-soled shoes - not enough support and too much flexibility in the sole can lead to injury.
Image Courtesy @Luluaddict 

What To know About Cycling Studios

07 November, 2017

As the days become shorter and colder, indoor cycling, and especially studio instructor-led group cycling classes, are an excellent way to enhance your cardiovascular fitness and improve your lower body strength while keeping the winter pounds off. As with all forms of exercise, though, it's not right for everyone. For the past year I have used studio indoor cycling classes to enhance my cycling fitness and lower body strength. While I prefer to #OPTOUTSIDE on my bike, I'm not lucky enough to have the time to be outdoors to train while it's starting to get colder and darker earlier these days so I've started taking my rides indoors.
There are many ways to train indoors during the colder seasons but if you're like me where you enjoy the setting of a class to motivate and push yourself in with a structured training session, loud music, nice classmates and instructors, then indoor cycling classes are for you. If you're dabbling with the idea of keeping your fitness levels up with an indoor cycling session, here's what you should know before you sign up for your first studio class.

Classes Are Expensive
Most large gyms offer group fitness classes as part of a membership or for a nominal additional monthly fee. The same can't be said for cycling-specific studios though. Because group cycling classes are these studios' only form of bread and butter, they charge a premium for each class, often between $15 and $35, depending on the studio and location. Most cycling studios offer some form of a "first class free" benefit so you can test-drive an instructor or location before laying out a lot of cash. And if you decide you're in love with this type of cardio, there are ways to save money on studio classesSome smaller gyms may have monthly unlimited cycle classes only memberships, which I recommend as you can attend as many classes and pay less than what most studios offer.
Studio Bikes Are Different
Spin bikes are designed to mimic the full experience of cycling outside. As such, the seat is narrower than a traditional stationary bike, and the handlebars and seat can be adjusted vertically and horizontally to better accommodate your body shape and riding posture. Spin bikes also feature a heavy flywheel at the front of the bike that's connected directly to the pedal. This mechanism is similar to a traditional bike, placing the power of the pedal in the rider's hands—literally. The rider controls the speed of each pedal stroke, as well as the resistance of the flywheel, which is manually adjusted with a knob or handle. You can switch in an instant from no resistance at all—as if you were riding down a hill—to heavy resistance, as if climbing a steep mountain. Also, your feet are clipped into a set of pedals, fixed to the bike, making it possible for you to fully engage through an entire pedal rotation—both the downward pushing motion and the upward pulling motion. 
Classes Are Intense
If you're not a fan of sweating or high-intensity workouts, group cycling classes may not be for you. These classes are specifically designed to take you on a "hilly" ride as instructors call for regular changes in resistance and intensity, coaching you up and down a series of virtual slopes often to the sound of blaring, heart-pumping tunes. The experience is a combination of challenge and excitement that leaves you with aching legs and a sweat-soaked body. 
You may be able to burn between 400 and 600 calories per class due to the challenging nature of the workout. The actual number of calories you'll burn is highly individual and varies based on your height, weight, sex, muscle mass, and age, as well as how hard you push yourself during a workout. Try using a heart rate monitor and calorie burn calculator like the FitBit Charge to get a better estimate for your height and weight. 
Form Is Critical
Like cycling, indoor cycling is a voluntary form of physical stress, and more specifically, it's a voluntary form of high-intensity physical stress. This means injuries are possible, particularly if you push yourself too hard, fail to use proper form or cadence, or ignore the importance of rest and recovery. For instance, poor posture can lead to shoulder, hand, and knee pain; leaning too heavily on your bike can diminish calorie burn as you reduce muscle engagement; and failing to breathe properly can limit the flow of oxygenated blood to working muscles, causing performance deficits, dizziness, and other unpleasant symptoms. It's always important to listen to your instructor notes on form and your body to avoid overdoing it, especially if you're new. 
There's a Right Way to Set Up Your Bike
One of the benefits of indoor cycling is the ability to adjust a bike's handlebars and seat to fit your body's frame. Since not all bodies are the same, even minor adjustments to the seat height or the forward/backward positions of the handlebars can make for a more comfortable and safe ride. Correctly making these adjustments, however, isn't always intuitive. This is one of the reasons it's a good idea to take a few classes before starting to ride on your own. A group cycling instructor can help you adjust your bike the first few times you ride, providing you with pointers and tips for finding the right fit on your own.
One big pointer: When you stand next to your bike, the seat should be roughly the same height as your hip bone, like your normal bike. This allows for a full extension at the knee during each pedal stroke. 
Saddle Soreness Is Normal
If you haven't been on a bike in awhile because of the season change, you may be surprised to discover a bruised-like feeling through your groin on the days following a class. This is normal. While initially uncomfortable, you'll discover that you no longer develop the same bruised feeling as your body grows accustomed to the workout, which will take a few classes. If, however, you'd like to avoid feeling sore altogether, you can try wearing chamois shorts or tights.
Indoor Cycling Etiquette Is Real
Just as there is proper gym etiquette, there's also proper indoor cycling etiquette, particularly when it comes to group cycling classes. For instance, it's considered bad form to be on or answer your cell phone during class, or to leave without wiping down your bike. Brush up on the basics before you take your first class, and if you're heading to a new studio, ask the instructor if there are any studio-specific rules you should know in advance.
Not All Instructors or Studios Are Created Equal
Some studios and instructors are better than others, and sometimes "better" is a matter of personal preference. For instance, some studios rely on loud music and beat-based, almost dance-like choreography, while others focus more on traditional cycling form based on heart rate, RPM (rotations per minute), or watts. Likewise, some instructors provide clear and crisp cuing and modeling, while others have a more "fluid" approach to riding a bike (and still others model poor form and poor instruction). It's a good idea to try several studios or instructors before settling on your favorite or deciding indoor studio cycling isn't right for you.
Indoor Cycling Offers Many Benefits

After your first studio class, you'll have no doubts about the activity's ability to increase your heart rate while making your lower body burn. Classes and workouts are seriously tough, and as with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, cycling can enhance heart and lung function and help improve body compositionIn short, if you enjoy the workout and are prepared to stick with it (consistency is really the key in any exercise program), indoor cycling can pay off big time when it comes to total wellbeing in the winter.

While I know most cyclists prefer the outdoors and indoor bike trainers, there are benefits to a studio structured class that you can't get in your garage or online. Every time I leave class, I not only leave drenched in sweat but I feel energized and flushed with happiness. Spin has helped me keep my health strong, weight normal, and has blasts those seasonal blues away all while keeping my legs strong for that QOM that I'm dreaming of next season. 

In another post I'll share with you gear for studio classes cause like cycling kit, I like my studio cycling kit to be functional and stylish too.

Images @IHG

En Route Event (CANCELLED)

01 November, 2017

Update on Nov. 3. Event Cancelled.

En Route is hitting The Dutchess Rail Trail Nov 4th. This will be the last En Route ride of the year before New York freezes over. All riders welcome (new and experienced), easy social pace, coffee at All That Java, invite your sister, mother, and friends!

For routes, rides, and event updates check regularly on EN ROUTE's Facebook page and EN ROUTE's Strava club page.

Details

8:30 am - Meetup
9 am - Rollout
Hopewell Junction NY 12533

Route
These rides alternate between trails, hilly and flat routes, 40-100 km, with a mid or post ride cafe stop. For November 4th route, check out our Strava event link and RSPV on our EN ROUTE Facebook Page.

The Fine Print
We're a laid-back group and encourage all levels of experience. If you’re unsure whether or not one of our rides is for you, please contact us or come along to a Saturday ride. No rides on rainy days.

This is a 'no drop' ride with a social but average pace of 12-15 mph. Please note all of these rides are not supported and are undertaken at your own risk.

We recommend you cycle on a bike that you are a confident rider on. Please also bring a helmet, carry a pump and tube for any punctures and nutrition to get you through the ride if you require it.

*DISCLAIMERBy signing up for a road ride, or any other event organized by this group, you are acknowledging that you are aware of the risks, dangers and hazards associated with any outdoor activity and freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards. In addition, you further agree to release and discharge the Organizers of all liability arising from your participation in the group activities. Release Agreement here.

Winter Cycling Skin Care

30 October, 2017

Gone are the long summer days of cycling. While many of us are ditching our summer gear for fall and winter gear, many of us can also benefit from a skin-care upgrade to combat the blustery months ahead. As women who spend a lot of time outdoors, our skin may be in danger of drying and premature aging: sun spots and wrinkles. As active women, experts say we should focus on our skin care on cleansing, protecting against sun and wind burn, and repairing damage via antioxidant vitamins C, D, and E. As you gear up to do battle with the elements and other forms of fall and winter warfare, here’s how to keep your skin glowing — even in the shortest and darkest of days.
Hydrate
Refilling your bidons all summer is easy to remember because we’re usually hot and thirsty on our bikes, but keeping up your water intake is just as important in the colder months. Even when we don’t feel ourselves sweating, our body is losing water. Can you see your breath when you’re outside in the cold? That’s respiratory fluid loss and it’s one of the major ways our bodies dehydrate in the cold. We know that dehydrated skin can look scaly and dull but you can help combat your skin’s water withdrawals by refilling that bidon and finding a humidifier to add to your nightstand. Humidifiers keep moisture in the air, helping ensure you wake up with soft and supple skin.

Diet
As we dive deeper into winter, look at your diet and how it might be affecting your skin. Diet (especially if it’s high in sodium, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol) can play a huge role in what’s going on with your skin. To combat dry, flaky skin in the winter, reach for foods or a supplement rich in omegas 3’s and GLAs to replenish lost lipids in your skin — walnuts, salmon, sardines, flax seeds, and evening primrose oil all nourish skin from within. Taking a tip from Nordic countries with long winters, a typical winter diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, omega's, antioxidants found in a range of winter leafy and root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, and artichokes.

Moisturize
You need to cram as much moisture into your skin as possible. “The most hydrating formulas have ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, that pull water into your skin,” says Jeannette Graf, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. This is not going to be the lightweight lotion that knocked around in your beach bag either, it needs to be the Incredible Hulk of that formula. This isn't just for your face, though — your entire body needs more hydration. Look for oil-free moisturizers for the face, and something greasier, and more glycerine-based for the body. Moisturizer can be complimented with a recovery serum to assist repairing facial skin at night, leaving you with soothed skin the next day after a cold ride.
Cleanser
If you suddenly notice your skin has dry, scaly patches, it’s peeling in places, or stings or bites when exposed to the cold, then it’s time to switch your cleanser. Anything highly foaming, artificially fragranced, with scrubbing beads, glycolic acid, or high levels of acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide may over-strip natural oils, remove too many cells, and compromise the skin’s barrier. Switch to a creamy, fragrance-free gentle cleanser for the winter months. Your skin should not feel tight, look red, or sting once you’ve toweled off. And, if it is, consult with a skin care professional on finding a more suitable option.
Exfoliate
You want to slough away the dead cells so your skin doesn’t look dull and your turbo-charged moisturizer absorbs. But overdo it in cold weather and skin gets dry, red, and flaky. Dr. Graf suggests exfoliating once or twice a week with a gentle scrub or a peel. And when your skin starts to feel a little tight, double-down with a hydrating serum underneath your moisturizer so you get ahead of dry patches.

SPF
Finally, an effort to hyper-hydrate and soothe the skin should never come at the cost of ditching daily sun protection. Sure, you may not see as much of the sun during the next few months, but UVA rays — the aging and cancer-causing rays that penetrate through windows and clouds, and into the deepest layer of skin — are still kicking, all day, every day. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, engaging in winter sports increases your risk of overexposure to dangerous UV rays. To protect skin year round, find a product you can work into your beauty routine without having to think too hard about it.

If you're planning on cycling through the winter months, I hope this guides you into having a glowing winter season. I know winter can be rough for some of us but in regions where the winters are tough and long, there is a balance between comfort and discomfort with the primary focus on getting out and getting on with things by embracing nature and integrating it into our lives. 

While I know winter care is one thing, I also know that winter cycling kit is another so I'll be covering winter season kit and gear in a post soon so you can be prepared for the cold season ahead. For now, here are some suggestions on skin care products that work for me in the winter season in the North East.

Images @CafeduCycliste

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