…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
This will be another of my lengthy blog posts; it seems they begin with a lengthy part about my personal experiences, leading then into the helpful stuff, so either bear with it or scroll down.
As a youngster I had the benefit of being slim and flexible, and when I started high school I had the added benefit of cycling the few miles there and back each day (I also despised the thought of going on the school bus). In PE (Physical Education) lessons I demonstrated myself as being one of the fittest in our year when it came to doing a bleep test, only quitting out at second to last when my asthma kicked in. All this I kind of took for granted.
Since high school I cycled to college and my part time job until I finally passed my driving test and started driving everywhere instead. Then roll forward some ten years and I’m back cycling to work gradually more and more often until I finally get my own house and I’m cycling to the shops too; carrying more and cycling further than I did on those school day mornings I still remember.
Then I finally cycle to Scotland and back earlier this year, averaging seventy miles a day with no days off, carrying all my camping gear, and finally back home I get into bed one night… I get cramp in my left calf muscle which makes me kick my leg out and the cramp immediately transfers from my calf to my foot, which is where I’m prone to getting cramp when in a cold bed or cool water, except this was summer.
Roll forward a few weeks and I take up running with my brother. I’m actually used to running a couple of miles at a time, once or twice a week; my feet and legs got used to that some years back (although it took a while). Since my brother wasn’t used to running I decided to run a few miles first to sort of wear myself out a little before he joined me. In all we got into a good routine and I would be running 5+ miles at a time, once a week. After a few weeks of this I got an aching pain in my calf, like it felt tight, but I was able to keep running, so I did, thinking it was just because I had calf muscles from cycling and they were getting a jolting from pounding the pavement, and it would get better throughout the week and as each week passed.
Then the arches of my feet started causing me pain. This seemed to come about following cycling, after having been running, not directly after running, but the two were related; I figured my years of cycling had tightened me up in various places and the running demanded more flexibility, which couldn’t come about from just running and cycling.
I looked on the internet for some help with the arch pain and found a video demonstrating the ‘pen and the penny’ exercise, but that didn’t work for me; I didn’t feel it doing anything. What I did learn though was that the tightness in the calf muscles and the problems with the arches in my feet were likely related. I found some simple calf-stretching exercises and discovered that calf-stretching was an element of a ‘Yoga for Cyclists’ video I had been following for a while (but not focussing on that particular element). I’m now trying to make such stretches part of my post-run routine, something to do when I feel the pains in my arches, and part of my daily exercises, rather than just getting on my bike as I always had done.
My yoga actually began when I was looking for some wrist exercises since I’m prone to RSI pain from being sat at a computer too much. The video I found has not only given me something to do when my wrists hurt, but I now start my other yoga exercises with some of them because they help with the yoga poses that are a little hard on the wrists, such as “downward facing dog”.
I’m now incorporating three or more videos. Here’s my current routine…
Unless I’m doing a full stint I start with the first half of this video:
However, this second video begins with a breathing exercise that works well throughout…
When I first started following this routine I wasn’t focussing on any exercise in particular but I particularly liked the “Pigeon Pose”… that was until I over-stretched my foot and had some pains there for a while. The work on the abs is also very tough! To help with my calf muscles I focus on the “Downward-Facing Dog” pose which this video includes a few times.
After a while I got particularly comfortable with that video and wanted something more. At the end it referred to an Intermediate one, but it wasn’t linked (but I did later find it) and found this one instead:
The first time I watched this video (before trying it) I laughed when half way through she says “and that was the warm-up”!
This video includes some of the same stretches but there are some noticeable differences.
The previous focuses a lot on the breathing which really helps and the routine does kinda flow well for me because of that. This isn’t to detract from the Ditte’s but I’m glad I learned about the breathing so I can focus on it through out all. I also like how Ditte explains the positioning for each pose – she takes time to do this and her method makes the poses slightly different, in particular the Pigeon Pose which includes some back-bending. Her video is intended to help straighten out us cyclists but I think these exercises will be great for all of us who spend a lot of time sitting (which is pretty much all of us, right?!) A new pose for me in her video was the “Tree Pose”, and like the Pigeon Pose, I discovered some pain at first, or rather, it again revealed a lack of flexibility in my feet; when I hold my foot up as she shows it is somewhat painful around my foot, so I’m taking it easy and expect it to get better and better as weeks pass and I keep doing these exercises.
I also like how these two videos end; it makes you treat the exercise session as some “me time”, like, being kind to yourself, which is somehow how my constant cycling with little else can feel is lacking! I also like that Ditte says during her routine that it’s your stretch, you take it where you need to be; rather than get frustrated because you’re not as flexible.
To end with I’ll post here additional calf and foot exercises; the second is new to me but I’m hoping to gradually add it in to my routine… and maybe one day I’ll make my own session!