The use of warm-up procedures has long been traditional in sports and is still advocated
by most athletic coaches and physicians as the means of preparing the body physiologically
for physical performance, in the belief that it will not only improve performance
but will lessen the possibility of injury. It is common practice amongst athletes
to perform low intensity physical activity before participating in a strenuous event.
It is believed that proper warm-up raises both the general body and the deep muscle
temperature and enhances flexibility, reduces the possibility of muscle tears and
ligament sprains and helps to prevent soreness, and is useful in athletic activity
requiring special co-ordination skills.
The most effective warm-up consists of both general and sport specific exercises.
General active warm-up exercises (for example cycling, running and jogging) should
begin with movement of the large muscle groups. The intensity and duration of a warm-up
depends on the level of exercise to be performed. The best guideline for the intensity
of the warm-up is to produce some mild sweating without fatigue. Once the athlete
breaks into light sweat indicating that the core temperature has been increased,
a period of stretching should follow. Stretching of the muscles and joints is essential
and should be sport specific and related to the activity performed. After stretching
the intensity of the activity in which the athlete is going to participate should
be simulated. The warm-up session should last for at least 10-15 minutes, depending
on the sport involved. The time delay should be no longer than 10 minutes. The time
needed for a satisfactory warm-up varies with the individual and tends to increase
with age. Warm-up exercises should be completed before both training and competition.
After a vigorous workout, a cool-down session is essential. This helps in returning
blood to the heart for re-oxygenation. Symptoms such as dizziness or faintness may
occur without a cool-down period. The period prevents pooling of blood and enables
the body to cool-down and return to resting state. The cool-down period should last
about 10-15 minutes. During cool-down, you should engage in stretching activities
that was done during the warm-up. Persons who stretch during the cool-down period
tend to have fewer problems with muscle soreness after strenuous activity.
Please contact Capt S. Lambreght at 1 Mil Hosp (012 314 0224) regarding any enquiries.
GENERAL NUTRITIONAL ISSUES FOR CYCLISTS
Proper nutrition is important at every stage of training and competition. Both the
serious competitive cyclist as well as the recreational cyclist should eat a balanced
diet that provided calories adequate to meet energy demands. Cyclists consuming less
than 2000 calories a day may have difficulty meeting nutrient needs, particularly
for iron and calcium. Weight loss, glycogen depletion, and dehydration also are possible
results of an inadequate diet. Dietary strategies to enhance or maintain the body’s
carbohydrate stores are necessary for performance, especially for cyclists with high
training miles or participating in road racing and other endurance events. Additionally,
cyclists should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids especially when in a hot
environment. It appears that protein requirements of endurance athletes increase
as the duration and intensity of exercise increases.
However, factors such as total calorie intake and protein quality should be considered
when determining protein needs. Many athletes are concerned about vitamin and mineral
intake and often use nutritional supplements both for “insurance” as well as performance
reasons. The supplements taken most often include vitamin C, E, the B-complex and
iron. Vitamins and minerals in excess of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) do
not improve performance and can be toxic when consumed in large amounts. On the other
hand, vegetarians and cyclists with low-calorie intakes may benefit from a multivitamin
of mineral supplement. (Grandjean et al. 1994)
Muscle cramps – untying the knots
A cramp is an involuntary muscle contraction. It differs from normal muscle contractions,
such as flexing your biceps.
What causes cramps?
No one knows for sure – but the key to treatment and prevention can often be found
in the cause. Scientists know that several factors are associated with cramps.
Muscles that are fatigued, injured or exposed to extreme temperatures may be particularly
vulnerable to cramping.
Dehydration may be the most important factor. Heat cramps seem to be more common
in the beginning of the summer when people are not yet acclimatized to the heat and
lose more electrolytes in their sweat. Keep the 94.7 and the Sun City classics in
mind, which usually occurs at the time when the climate becomes a bit warmer.
Electrolyte imbalance is also often cited as an underlying problem. The mineral potassium
(found in bananas, for example) and sodium (found in table salt and may foods) are
called electrolytes because they carry an electric charge that helps trigger muscles
to contract and relax. Sweat loss and dehydration can disrupt the balance between
potassium and sodium. A potassium sodium imbalance can lead to cramps. The muscle
won’t return to normal until fluid is replaced and electrolyte balance is restored.
Another possibility is mineral deficiency, or too little of certain minerals in your
diet. The two most important of these are calcium and magnesium, which help muscles
contract and relax.
Muscle cramps may also stem from an underlying condition. Diseases such as clogging
of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) or diabetes may be the source. Hope you don’t
fall in this category!!!
How to treat and prevent cramping
Regardless of the cause, the treatment for cramps is the same. For immediate relief,
gently stretch the muscle as best you can. When you stretch a contracted muscle,
you increase the tension on the tendons, which are elastic bands that attach your
muscles to your bones. If there is too much tension on a tendon, your nerves inform
your brain that the tendon may be pulled off the bone. Your brain responds by sending
a message for the cramped muscle to relax. Pressing on the muscle, massaging it,
and applying ice for a few minutes while stretching also help the muscle to relax
and “uncramp”. Stretching is a first aid treatment. It brings relief but it is short
Try the following steps to avoid cramps:
Drink lots of water: Prevent short-term dehydration by replacing as much fluid as
possible while cycling. It is possible to lose as much as 600 – 700ml of sweat per
hour while exercising vigorously on a hot day. Drink as much water as possible within
an hour after exercise. Avoid long-term dehydration by drinking several glasses of
water each day. Also check your weight before and after exercise. Assume that all
lost weight is fluid and needs to be replaced that same day.
Get enough potassium and sodium. Eat foods high in potassium such as bananas and
oranges. Low-sugar sports drinks that contain potassium supplements can also be helpful
if taken and during exercise.
In the old days, coaches recommended salt tablets to replace the salt lost through
sweat. But salt tablets are a NO-NO!! They tend to draw water from your bloodstream
and may irritate your stomach.
Build up other minerals. Make sure you get enough dietary calcium and magnesium.
Good sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, salmon, sardines, shrimp, dark green
leafy vegetables, and dried peas and beans. Vitamin C helps your body absorb calcium,
whereas eating too much protein interferes with calcium absorption. Good sources
of magnesium include nuts (especially almonds and cashews). Apricots, whole grains,
dark green leafy vegetables, and soybeans.
Wear proper clothing. Anything that interferes with blood circulation (cold weather,
for example) can contribute to cramping. To avoid exposing your muscles to sudden
and extreme changes in temperature, keep them covered. Examples include winter jackets
for cycling, arm warmers, leg warmers and ear warmers (available at Hatfield Cycles).
Also avoid tight clothes and taping. Cycling shorts that are too tight may restrict
blood flow to the lower leg. Less blood to the muscles contributes to cramping.
Get in shape. Although no one is immune to muscle cramps, poorly conditioned muscles
appear to be most vulnerable. People who are unaccustomed to exercise will lose more
sodium and potassium in their sweat then will those who regularly exercise in the
heat. The Argus cycle race is a typical example of thousands of enthusiastic but
unfit cyclists who are unable to finish the race because of cramp[s. This is a direct
result of insufficient training.
Stretch before cycling. In combination with a 10km slow ride which will be sufficient
to increase blood flow to the major muscle groups.
Never surprise your muscles – allow adequate time for your muscles to make adjustments.
Break in new equipment such as shoes, pedals or frame. The muscles must become accustomed
to the new angle.
Ask about prescription drugs. Taking quinine tablets may help prevent persistent
muscle cramps. Ask your doctor for advice.
Uncramp your work-out
MUSCLE CRAMPS MAY BE PAINFUL, BUT THEY NEEDN’T DEFEAT YOU. LOTS OF WATER, ADEQUATE
ELECTROLYTES AND OTHER MINERALS, AND GOING EASY ON YOUR MUSCLES CAN HELP YOU “UNCRAMP”
Remember : No amount of money spent on equipment, training, and coaching will help
ensure a winning performance if you do not have the proper fuel in your tank.
Maj Etresia Terblanche – 1 Military Hospital
1. Grandjean, AC. And Ruud, JS (1994). Nutrition for cyclists. Clinics in Sports
Medicine 13 (1): 235-47
2. Stamford, B. (1993) Muscle cramps – Untying the knots. The Physician and Sports
medicine. Vol 21.No7.
TRAINING FOR PERFORMANCE; A "MUST READ" FOR EVERY SERIOUS CYCLIST!
If you ever want to be a serious contender in your bunch, you have to be able to
train at the right intensity, for the right amount of time at the right time!