Amanda Klimitchek knows a little something about exercise. She’s a health education specialist in MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center, specializing in cancer risk reduction through diet and physical activity.
When she started working at MD Anderson, cycling was not part of her exercise routine. To save money on parking and add some extra activity into her day, she started biking to work about two years ago.
Klimitchek says in the end, she achieved more than cost savings.
“I think it’s definitely a stress reliever. I’ve seen a change in my weight and my endurance has increased as I’ve increased the intensity slowly,” Klimitchek says.
She also learned some lessons about getting back on a bike after a long break. Her first piece of advice: Start slow.
“I was really nervous about the traffic, getting into an accident, falling off or not knowing how to handle certain situations,” Klimitchek says. She practiced riding around her apartment complex to get comfortable with her bike, and worked her way up to practice trips to work on weekends.
When she moved, she started the whole process over again, practicing her route so she would feel safe and confident.
Klimitchek shared some tips for anyone who wants to try cycling or get back on a bike after a long hiatus. The League of American Bicyclists also offers lots of information on bike safety, maintenance and rules of the road. Here are some highlights to get you started.
Tips to get you started
Bike fit is important. “Just like you can’t drive your car if you can’t reach the pedals, you can’t control your bike well if it’s not fitted well,” Klimitchek says.
You’ll be more comfortable – and able to ride longer – on a bike that is the right size. You’ll also be safer. Your local bike shop can help you select a bike that suits your needs or help you adjust your bike for the best fit.
Be as visible as possible. “Headlights, reflectors and bright clothing are all important, especially if you are in a high-traffic area,” Kimitchek says. Even during the day.
Be as predictable as possible. Always signal your intentions. Put your left or right arm straight out to indicate a left or right turn, respectively, and put your left arm out and down with the palm facing back to signal a stop.
Obey the law. Remember, bicycles are considered vehicles. Always ride WITH the direction of traffic and obey traffic signals.
Invest in a good lock. If you are going to park your bike, secure it with a quality bike lock. “I’ve had two bikes stolen, one at my apartment complex, and one at work,” said Klimitchek. She has since invested in a better lock.
Wear a helmet. Enough said.
What to expect
If you haven’t been on a bike for a while, start with shorter distances. You might experience a little discomfort after your first ride. The most common complaint is soreness in a major point of contact with the bike: the seat. Padded shorts and a comfortable saddle can prevent most of the discomfort, and after a couple of rides, it goes away.
As with any activity, start slowly to build up your endurance. Cycle a few days a week for an achievable distance or time, and add more as you increase your endurance and comfort level.
Klimitchek says the effort is worth it. Preparing for her commute and seeing the benefits kept her engaged in cycling. “It makes you feel like you are accomplishing something.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.