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.


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

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.
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.

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

Cycling Guide To Copenhagen

26 October, 2017

Recently I took a trip out to Copenhagen, the bicycle capital of the world. I was excited to see what the big deal of cycling this city was all about and was left rather surprised. I had been following Danish progressive city planning policy for years and had been inspired by Copenhagenize's perspective on the potential for a car free cycling city. It had been a few years since I left city life and forgotten my sustainable planning studies and wondered if I was still cut out as a city commuter to handle Copenhagen by bike.

When I arrived in Copenhagen I had underestimated getting around the hustle and bustle of the city. With streets packed full of tourists making their way to the next museum and local commuters stressing about making it on time to their next meeting, it can be very difficult to get out your big map or order a taxi right to your feet.  Which is why in a city that has more bikes than cars, cycling is the preferred way of getting around the Danish capital. Locals do it, tourists do it, everyone does it which is why Copenhagen ranks no1 as the most cycle-friendly city in the world, just beating Amsterdam.
According to the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, the city continues to invest heavily in its bike infrastructure, especially in bike-only bridges, so I've written a guide for first timers on how to cycle around the city. I didn't know what to expect in this city but quickly hopped on a bike and did like the locals, follow my tips to get around Copenhagen the authentic way (on two wheels)...
Renting a bike - The city is full of bike rentals and bike tours. Just look out for racks in traffic-heavy areas and near main sites and attractions.

A common, very handy way of getting around is on bicycles from the company ‘Bycyklen’. To hire these electric bikes all you have to do is enter in a few details onto the touchscreen between the handlebars (inc your card details) then you can cycle off and explore the city at your own pace, it's got gps too! It's a pay as you go system, very smart technology. There are over 100 Bycyklen stations spread across the city and you can return your bike to any of these stations. Payment will happen automatically with the payment card you have attached to your user account. There is an hourly rate of DKK 30 per commenced hour, which is equivalent to about £3.68 in pounds, €4 or $4.75

Rent A Bike -  Most Copenhagen hotels and hostels have bikes for customers to rent and also bike maps to help you through the city.

Other Options - I was told by a local that if you see an abandoned bike don’t be scared to wheel it to the local bike shop, get some free air in the tires and cycle off. Although you may feel a bit wary of doing this, the local police officers agree that as long as the bike clearly has no owner coming back for it, then they don’t see why it isn’t free for you to take.

There are tons of different places to rent a bike in Copenhagen. They vary from bike cafes, guided tours, and do it yourself. There are more quirky places that allow you to hire trendy designer bikes if you want to experience the city in style.  There are guided tours that take you to the main attractions of the city, but there are also tours that have the focus of taking you around the urban areas that the locals like to hang out and the cool architecture of the city. One of these urban tours takes place close to the downtown part of the city.

Cycling around Copenhagen is the best way to explore the city but you must follow these rules. Trust me, I learned the hard way... 

Hand Signals - To avoid collisions and to let other drivers and cyclists on the road know exactly where you’re going. It’s important to know some of the most basic hand signals you’ll need. To indicate a right turn stick your right hand straight out. The same goes for when you want to turn left (the same signals with the left hand instead of the right hand).

Stopping - If you want to stop you need to indicate it by raising your hand in a stopping gesture, if you suddenly stop and forget to use this hand signal, you will most likely get told off by the Danish!

Turning Left - Always remember, you’re not allowed to take a direct turn left! So if you want to turn left, you need to cross to the opposite corner first and then wait for the traffic light to turn green before continuing your journey.

Traffic Lights - At larger junctions, there are separate traffic lights for cars and bikes. You can tell them apart due to the fact that the traffic lights for bikes are slightly smaller than the regular ones and have a bike signal at the top. It’s important to pay attention to them because they don’t always change color at the same time as the traffic lights for the cars.

Bike Paths - Due to cycling being such a dominating feature of daily life in Copenhagen there are many aspects of the city designed favorably for cyclists, such as the well-designed system of cycling roads. It is important to try and stick to the paths and routes designated for cyclists otherwise chaos may occur and you could become a bit unpopular.
Stay Right - In Copenhagen you always cycle on the right side, this makes it easier for you to keep out of the way of cars. Being a city that has more bikes than cars, it also makes it easier for other bikers to overtake you if they are cycling faster than you. If you’re the one overtaking always check behind you (on your left side) to make sure you’re free to go and avoid any accidents!

Bike Lights - If you’re using your bike after dark, it’s mandatory to have lights on the front and rear end of the bike. However, if you’re renting out a bike most of them are equipped with lights but it’s always a good idea to ask just to be sure.

Don't Overtake A BusDON’T DO IT. If a bus stops, you have to stop too. You cannot overtake a bus at a bus stop because pedestrians might be getting off the bus and crossing over the bike lane - and you don’t want to knock over a pedestrian.

Spacial Awareness - It's allowed to cycle side by side, however, you must allow for other cyclists to pass. Be aware of walkers, cars, and stay on the bike path!

Lock It Up - I mentioned before that you're allowed to claim an abandoned bike, however, don't leave your bike unlocked unless you want someone else to claim it.

Bike Tour Copenhagen - There are so many different cycle tours to choose from that will take you through the main sites. I recommend Copenhagen Bicycles, they offer a guided bike tour around Copenhagen to the major sights. They are also partnered with a long list of hotels (found on the website) and if you are staying in any of them you are able to rent the bike directly from the hotel and join a tour for free. I spent a day doing this and was surprised at how much of Copenhagen you can cover by bike in a day!

There is so much more I want to say about Copenhagen like it's progressive society, hygge, restaurants, museums, and architecture but I'll save that for another day. Hope this comes in handy in case you're looking for a cycling holiday in this city.

Cycling Nutrition For Women

24 October, 2017

When it comes to cycling and nutrition, food is often referred to as a source of fueling. I often think of fueling as nurturing my health and prepping for performance and recovery before, during, and after a ride. When researching women's sports nutrition, I found this information to be mostly about weight lost, diets, eating disorders among athletes, juice cleanses, and what calories and fats to avoid. This got me thinking... women's sport nutrition needs a new approach. Like most female cyclists, I feel stronger and weaker during certain phases of my menstrual cycle and wanted to develop a food plan of what foods I should be eating during these phases to help me get the most out of my training while feeling good on my bike all phases of the month.

With sports nutritionists like Lori Nedescu of Cadence Kitchen and brands like Osmo Nutrition, sports nutrition and products are highlighting the connections between a females overall health, menstrual health, and energy outputs to guide women in their own performance nutrition. While Lori wouldn't call herself a "women's specific" sports nutritionist, her knowledge and skill to help athletes goes beyond creating meal plans and recipes that can help facilitate performance and general wellness with real food through all seasons and cycles. Osmo Nutrition's founder Stacey Sim's brands the women's Osmo line with a theme in mind - women are not small men- and argues that women have been fueling themselves all wrong.

In another Bike Talk post I want to share a bit about how our cycles affects our riding but for now I want to share the basics about nutrition to facilitate your performance and wellness. While I don't claim to be an expert or specialist, I only want to share with you what I have learned from books, blogs, and research articles around the subject to guide you to the right resources. When it comes to nutrition and fueling, there are specific considerations we as women in cycling should know...

Consuming the right amount of calories is huge step towards ensuring women stay healthy and energized in general but it's often over looked in order to lose weight. Typically women need less calories than men but enough to fuel performance. Not eating enough on a day-to day basis or not eating after hard training sessions or endurance rides can lead to low energy availability that can affect health. For women, low energy availability impacts hormone secretion from the pituitary gland, which directly impacts regulation of ovulation and the ability to absorb minerals to keep bones healthy. We must also keep in mind that consuming too many calories, if not used, runs the risk of weight gain, it's fine balance.
To optimize health and cycling performance it is important to consume 3 macronutrients – Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat. Eliminating any of these food groups can have negative effects on immune function, recovery and also increase rick of injury. If certain healthy weight goals need to be achieved it is better to do it through the combination of smaller portions and the timing of your food consumption, as opposed to eliminating any of these whole food groups.

Carbohydrates: This is the primary macronutrient for energy metabolism. Although for women, carbohydrates seem to come with a bit of a bad rap, it is actually crucial if you want to get the most out of your training and rides. Carbohydrates are essential in providing your body with the muscle glycogen needed to sustain exercise, and allow you to train harder and therefore elicit better training adaptations than training in a depleted state. Generally, carbohydrate intake should be up to 50% of the calories calculated in your total energy requirement, or around 6-8g/kg/bw. It may be necessary to increase carbohydrate intake for those participating in ultra endurance events or during intense periods of endurance training. Remember, carbohydrates not only fuel our muscles but also our brains, staying alert can be pivotal in some sports to help avoid injury.

Protein: Research has found an elevated need for protein in most endurance and power athletes. However, research has also shown that female athletes don’t actually need as much protein as men due to lower oxidation rates during exercise. Saying that, protein is still essential to promote recovery and muscle adaptation and still remains an important part of the female athletes diet.  The average population’s protein intake is 0.8g/kg/bw but female endurance athletes require 1.3-1.5g/kg/bw.

Fat: Women have a greater capacity to use and transport fats than men during endurance exercise. It is the combination of high oxidation rates and higher fat stores that actually make women very suited to long distance events. With this in mind it is essential that women do not consume less than 20% of their total energy requirements from fat. Having 25-30% from healthy sources such as nuts, oil, fish and meat would be optimal. There is even evidence that supports women having a slightly higher fat content in their recovery meals to replenish the energy stores they have used. Not forgetting health, fat is also essential for a whole host of fat soluble vitamins our bodies need for immune function and recovery. Fat is not as bad as people think when consumed relative to total calorie intake.
Vitamins and Minerals
It is important that all female cyclists ensure they get the necessary daily intake of vitamins and minerals to aid health and particularly immune function. There is nothing more frustrating than missing key training sessions or rides because of an annoying cough or blocked nose. For the female cyclists there a few key vitamins and minerals that are worth drawing your attention to.

Iron: This is one of the most common deficiencies amongst female athletes, anaemia. Iron is key to oxygen carrying and energy production. Iron deficiencies can lead to impaired muscle function and a reduction in performance. Women are most at risk due to their menstrual cycle, especially those who are vegetarian. It is thought endurance athletes need 70% higher intake than the general population (18 mg per day). The easiest way to obtain iron is through the consumption of red meat.

B Vitamins: Similar to iron, lack of B Vitamins such as B12 and folate can cause anaemia, which in turn means an athlete may suffer from severe fatigue, it can also affect the size of red blood cells. Good sources of B Vitamins are animal derived foods such as milk and red meat. B vitamins can be mixed in a high vitamin or mineral blend such as a recovery drink such as a banana almond chocolate smoothie, adding even more benefits to having one post training.

Calcium: Female cyclists who reduce their total energy intake are more at risk of calcium deficiencies. Calcium is a key mineral essential for growth and the development and maintenance of bones. Women are particularly at risk of low bone density, however, one needs to consider that Calcium needs Vitamin D for it to be absorbed; Vitamin D is most readily obtained from sunlight. Having 3-4 servings of dairy products per day such as a glass of milk, yogurt, or a small block of cheese is a great way to ensure you obtain enough calcium in your diet. If you're lactose intolerant like myself, I find dark leafy greens, figs, greek yogurt, hard cheeses, canned salmon, and almonds are great sources of vitamin D and calcium that I often use in meals, snacks, and smoothies.

If you're wondering how to guide your eating habits while training for a marathon or cycling sportiv, I highly recommend Lori Nedescu's guidance of Cadence Kitchen's Recipe book and her blog posts to help guide before, during, and after fueling. I'm a big fan of hers and while fueling you're body is a science, Lori reminds us that it is important to experiment with real foods and recipes to find what makes you feel and perform well on and off the bike. I am also a big fan of Osmo Nutrition for Women. They claim their products are based on scientific studies conducted on women, addressing the needs of women's physiology to help them perform better during all phases of the month. I have been using them for a while now and find their products deliver my needs but that's another post. I hope this helps guide you to performing and eating well on and off the bike and please reach out if you have any questions about books, articles, or recipes!

Images: @CadenceKitchen

Cycling Stratton, Vermont

18 October, 2017

For the past few years my fiance and I have been returning back to the land that kindled our journey to living in the woods, Vermont. Last year we endured a rather wet autumn camping out in Jamaica State Park shortening our journey's length. This year we wanted to try something different and after all the months of training, I decided to take us up Stratton Mountain, the highest point of the Green Mountains in the Southwest of Vermont. It was a task I set my mind to, and while this trip was filled with lots of highs, it also had it's lows at the end of the journey but nonetheless it was a trip full of new surprises.

When we arrived, we settled into our cozy quintessential Vermont cabin and started planning our first ride through Stratton Mountain. We were so excited about last years routes that we had expected this trip to be similar, but the routes I downloaded by Stratton Resorts website had given me very little knowledge of terrain or expectation of what was to come.

We set out for our first ride at Stratton Resort, we enjoyed the views from above and as we continued on highway roads we met a great descent that almost frighted us by how steep and long down it was. As I speed down, I was wishing that we wouldn't have to climb it back up to our car, little did I know at the time. As we easily reached the bottom we turned into a road that was a great heart pounding climb, the kind that made you want to throw up. This, we thought, was only the beginning of the ride so our spirits were willing but as we reached the top we were relieved onto a descent, making a turn into back country roads of gravel along the Winham river. Shaded by trees, we could see ahead that we had no climbs ahead of us.

We cycled through gravel effortlessly, covering miles of quaint cabins neatly tucked into the woods without a single car to disrupt the tranquility of the natural environment. We were loving our stretch through the woods and didn't want it to end. However, as we started to head back to our starting point we eased into the stretch climbing through dirt roads and farm. By the time we reached the last climb, we had to push ourselves onto a mile of 15% grade road, our legs and lungs were officially shot. I can't remember that last time my legs actually felt like they were on fire only after 3,900 ft of climbing but I did it without stopping, meditating on my breathing as everything in my body felt like it was on fire. I was proud of myself and my partner as he meet me at the top, all those months of spin climbing intervals had payed off. Once we got back our cabin, I prepared a bowl of gluten-free pasta bolognese and bathed in scorching water that helped me relax into a 9 hr sleep.

The next morning was an early start. We were so tired from our grueling ride the day before we decided to cover flatter, off road trails with the occasional hike. We returned back to a trail we did the year before in Jamaica State Park, were a 20 mile loop on trails and country roads would lead us to our favorite local burger spot, Honeypie. We developed a love relationship with this particular area of Vermont for the gourmet farm to table food, local roasters, and village market offerings that catered to tourist that wanted to indulge in an authentic Vermont experience.

Once on the White River trail, we were careful to notice beds of rock that were covered in early autumn foliage. To much of my amazement, my Dolce seemed to handle the off roading well. While the bone shaking and bumping along left me sore on my hands and shoulders, I was surprised how much control I had on my stability and handling. I was loving it, every challenge, every rock, every downhill rocky slope I had to push myself over, some moments scarier than others but once I did it without a fail, I felt that I had achieved something great.
All the smiles, laughs, and scary bits paused in the last five miles of our journey. When passing through a park for a nature break, I hurried to catch up to my fiance ahead of me but didn't notice all the dark tree shade covering the pavement and other things along it. Without noticing I had hit a speed bump, not your everyday neighborhood speed bump either. At 15mph, I flew over my handle bars, hitting the left side of my body first then onto my chest and belly sliding down the road with my helmet grinding the pavement till I stopped. I was crushed with pain and bleeding. Catching my breath, I cried out for my fiance who came rushing back to help me, checking if anything had broken. All was in it's place, luckily. 

Once we got back to our cabin, my fiance cleaned my cuts, scratches, and assessed if I needed to get a concussion exam or stitches. I no doubt had whip lash and everything was in pain but I was grateful that the severity of my crash was very mild. I was also grateful that my helmet had saved my face, teeth, and head. It could have been worse.

Fortunately, the end of our short holiday in Stratton was not all trauma. Most of the riding we covered was exactly what we hoped for and more. While packing up our last night, I layed on the couch icing my hands and knees, reminiscing on the scenery that stole our hearts and the history we made cycling in Vermont that kept calling us back. Will there be a next year? Perhaps...
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