25 February 2011

Self-Care Tips for Winter Cycling

Harsh winter cycling conditions prompting your body to cry out for some much-needed TLC? Beth Griffing and Seven Crow, practitioners at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, have put together a list of useful self-care tips cyclists can employ to help get you through the cold, damp, wet months that define winter (and/or spring) in your hometown riding area.

Photo (left) courtesy of BicyclingHub reader Lauren L.: "Me and the boys trying to keep up with Buddy the dog (hiding on the right) at Otis AFB on Saturday. Exciting riding with patches of snow and ice around every corner!! It was super windy but the bright blue sky and sunshine kept us going :-) Get out there before it snows again!"

Winter Biking Self-Care Tips

Drink warming herbal tea
Ginger tea is excellent for keeping your body warm and increasing circulation so you don't stiffen up too quickly. Make it using fresh ginger, sliced up and boiled or just a dry ginger tea bag steeped in hot water. Any of the warming spices are beneficial in this way: cardamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, star anise, etc... the Chai spices! All fantastic for promoting circulation and keeping out colds/viruses. Honey is also an excellent sweetener to harmonize the stomach and cut the edge of the warmer spices. Keep a chunk of ginger, dried herbs or tea bags on you to drink up after a ride in the cold to keep up your good health!

Foot Bath
Simmer rosemary and lavender (fresh or dried) and dried mugwort in a couple quarts of water for 10-20 minutes, then pour into a little foot tub/bucket. Add epsom salts or sea salts if you have them: this will relax and rejuvenate your whole system. If some part of your body is aching, soak a washcloth in the same water, wring it out and lay it on the aching area to decrease inflammation and pain.

Tiger Balm patches
Excellent for prolonged local pain relief. Just don't put them on too soon before or after a shower. Make sure to wash your hands well afterwards so as not to get any in your eyes. Wowee, that can be spicy.

Use one of these “smokeless moxa rolls” (pictured left) to relax muscles and ease joint pain.

Just use a candle to light it, make sure to keep an ashtray handy so you can scrape off any ash that forms, and pay attention to how hot your skin gets! (This seems obvious, but sometimes you may have decreased sensation in an area, and not notice how much heat the skin can physically absorb.) Be sure to examine the pole for any cracks or splits, a sign that the pole can no longer be used due to danger of a hot portion cracking off during treatment. To help avoid cracking, extinguish the pole in sand or salt instead of water, so it can be used multiple times.

This type pictured right is good as well, since you can just peel off the plastic at bottom and stick it onto your skin, while keeping the cone from ever touching the skin directly (they look like fireworks but are very easy to use).

The idea is to feel a sense of pressure and/or movement within the muscle that is being treated.

You will need:
  • one stick-on moxa tube
  • one lighter
  • an ashtray/heat-proof receptacle
  • tweezers or hemostat

To treat yourself: just stick on the moxa tube (peel off plastic to reveal sticky circle), light the incense-looking portion with a lighter (or crackpipe-torch from the plaid), and let it burn down until it feels hot enough. At that point use the tweezers or hemostat to remove the moxa tube from your skin. It helps to press the skin nearby to get the sticky portion to come off.

Remember this point- leg three miles! This is the place for the stick-on moxa! Also good to just massage or knuckle-tap this area.

Stick-on moxa is good for the back as well, along the thighs at any sore points, and parallel to the shin (the muscle portion, NOT the boney portion).

And remember the low-back/kidney rub... with hands in light fists, rub the thumb/forefinger portion along both sides of your spine in circular motion, covering your whole low back. The more vigorously you rub, the more energizing it is!

Qigong exercise for tight shoulders/back and stress
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Relax arms completely and twist the torso, rotating the shoulders while keeping hips facing forward. Let the arms swing with your rotation, like limp noodles. Do this for a few rounds, settling into your feet and relaxing the whole body, swinging the arms with the torso twisting side to side (lead with your torso and let the arms just swing naturally). Now while you've turned to the left side, swing your right arm up, cup your hand gently and pat your left shoulder firmly using the relaxed downward swing of your right arm. Let the right arm fall to your side as you turn to the right and bring the left arm up with hand cupped, letting it drop down onto your right shoulder (on top of that tense trapezius muscle that clenches when you shrug your shoulders.) And let that arm fall to the side as you swing back the other direction, bringing the right arm up, etc.

Do this exercise for a few minutes, letting the shoulders release a little more with each pat. Imagine that the hand patting the shoulder is bringing a handful of fresh, relaxing energy into your shoulders while dispersing the pent-up, tired energy, and don't be afraid to make a good slap (but never use a flat palm). Now pause, still standing with feet shoulder width apart and relaxed knees. Shake your whole body, moving any portion that feels stuck or tense, and just wiggle and bounce around until you feel stress leave your body in embarrassment. Invite a nice deep breath of fresh air into your body through your nose, and feel it drawing energy up through your feet and into your belly (or from the top of your head into your belly). Exhale fully through your mouth, letting the rest of any remaining tension dissipate to the far corners of the universe/into the earth. Remember that our carbon dioxide out-breath is beneficial for plants (in small amounts of course); our waste and stress can be recycled into the food chain as well :)

See your acupuncturist about this therapy, since it's a little more complex. It works great on thighs and calves, although for the hamstrings and back it requires a helper!

This article was based off a recent presentation to the Portland Society. For more information on Chinese Medicine and Do-It-Yourself healthcare for active people, consult catalystforbreakfast.wordpress.com or email bethgriffing@gmail.com or 7crow.medicine@gmail.com .

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