Almost every home has a medical cabinet – the place you go to when your head is throbbing or you’ve cut your finger slicing an onion (ouch!).
There are a couple of items that exist in the average medical cabinet that make great companions for cyclists, and a few less common items which cyclists would do well to keep a stock of.
Performance enhancing? Yes. Drugs? Some of them. But these are seven 100% legal handy helpers that cyclists should keep in their bathroom cabinets...
Have you ever heard a cyclist say their shorts “feel like a nappy"? Good cycling shorts shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve returned to toddler-dom, the chamois should be well fitted to your shape and breathable.
However, long days in the saddle might still result in some chafing and the cream famous for its nappy rash calming properties soothes sore skin and heals with a light antiseptic.
It’s never nice to take an involuntary trip from saddle to ground, but unfortunately it does happen – and being prepared in advance with some hydrocolloid plasters can make the whole experience less painful.
It’s often suggested that you should keep a wound – such as a cut, road rash, or grazing – dry to prevent infection and speed up healing.
These plasters actually work by keeping the wound moist, to prevent drying out, but in a germfree environment. Allowing a wound to heal in a moist environment reduces scarring and relieves pain – it’s a principal that’s been used in hospitals for years, but is made accessible to the general public thanks to the sale of hydrocolloid plasters. There are various options available, such as these from Savlon.
Ibprofen & Voltarol
A tough ride can cause inflammation of the muscles – which in turn results in pain and swelling. This reaction is normal, but may need a little rest until the pain recedes.
Ibuprofen is known to reduce inflammation – though it’s best not taken over an extended period of time, and always with food, to prevent damage to the stomach lining.
An alternative is to use a gel with inflammation fighting properties, such as Voltarol, which contains Diclofenac Diethylammonium – used for soft tissue injuries and inflammation.
The best way to beat the bonk on a ride is to make sure you take on enough food and drink throughout. However, we know that sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with the ride, and forget to top up your energy.
When we spoke to Dr Stacy Sims, of Osmo Nutrition about bonking, she said that if you’re struggling from a loss of energy as a result of low glycogen (not eating enough) as opposed to dehydration, glucose tabs can be a ‘get out of jail free’ card, telling us: “The fastest way to fix this is to eat something – a glucose tablet helps almost immediately" though she added that you should back this up with something solid as well.
This is a 'once in a while' option - don't try to replace a balanced healthy diet with boosts from glucose tablets.
Clipper Sleep Easy Tea
Suffering from pre-race nerves that are keeping you awake? Step away from the sleeping pills and try this natural mix of cinnamon, chamomile and (most importantly) – five per cent valerian root.
Sleep Easy Tea uses the root, which is a common cure for insomnia, to aid sleep – and from experience it certainly works for me (and my teacher mum, too!). Just be sure to brew yourself a cup about an hour before you hit the sheets, and only use it if you’ve got a good 10 hour stretch ahead of you before race time, because it does result in blissfully heavy limbs – great for aiding sleep, not so great on the start line!
Caffeine is known to have performance benefits – studies have shown that it stimulates the Central Nervous System by altering pain perception – meaning you can push harder, as well as enhancing muscle contractions and encouraging your body to burn more fat, leaving glycogen stores less depleted.
However, it’s not always convenient to get yourself a brew right before a ride, or when preparing yourself in the car park at race HQ – that’s where caffeine tablets come in. Great for keeping in your car glove box for a pre-race boost. Just make sure you practice taking these before a big event, so you can perfect your timing and dosage – never experiment before a race or ride where you really want to perform.
Omega 3 supplements
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fats used by the body. Up until the last 100 years, humans have maintained a ratio around 1:1. However, in recent years, that has grown closer to 1:10, in favour of Omega 6.
Omega 6 comes from oils such as vegetable oil, soya oil, and so on, whilst Omega 3 comes from fish such as salmon and sardines. Both types are important to our diets, but the inbalance can lead to problems. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties, whilst Omega 6 has inflammatory properties – fine when balanced out, but not when wildly out of balance – especially for cyclists who will want to reduce inflammation after tough rides.
It’s best to get the balance right with your diet – cut down on fried food to reduce your Omega 6 intake, and eat at least two portions of oily fish a week. However, Omega 3 supplements may also help you to redress the balance.
Hopefully, you’ll be feeling fit and healthy, and a carefree summer on the bike awaits you – but stock up on these just in case, so you’ll be ready for every eventuality.