Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cycling - Is riding a bike addictive?

Yes. I think so. But it is also possible that I have an addiction prone personality anyway.

A week or so ago, in one of my posts, I called cycling my little obsession and joted down a few points on why I do like it so much. Well, there are so many reasons but what I was trying to get to is this feeling that I get when I ride the bike. No matter how easy or how hard the ride is... I always find myself wanting more.

So, when I walked into Bruce's newsagency a few days later and found the new issue of
my favourite magazine, I got a surprise in form of very bright red letters they used on the cover: ARE YOU ADDICTED TO RIDING? No second thoughts on buying that issue, plus they always publish are variety of good articles on training, clothing, food and some new bling. Yeah, just like any other sports magazine, I hear.

No, I am not the only one and according to the author of the article, who described her craving as intense, and researchers in the US and Canada, it's all explained by changes in our brain chemistry when bicycling. Specially at high intensities. Ah, and my experience tells that we do get this from other sports and by ingesting or smoking some substances too - like beer and cigarettes.

They mention a boost in activity in the nervous system and an increased production of the neurotransmitters
serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which get us all fired up and feeling good. Of the three, dopamine is the one that gets most of the attention as it stimulates behaviour associated with survival, and is linked to acts such as eating, having sex and earning money.

It is all starting to make sense now!!!

In the same article, a J J Ratey, a neurobiologist in Chicago, says that it's possible to become hooked on the chemical changes that exercises bring about and that hard rides trigger human growth hormones production. All good so far. In the down side, and there is always something, with a long, intense workout the adrenal glands begin to produce cortisol, or stress hormone, which begins to tear down muscle. Apparently, this is one of the reasons for elite athletes adopting short, intense intervals to their programs these days.

I like that!

Our excitable neurons

The other point they raise is that of a possible harmful behaviour which they say is a defining characteristic of an addiction. Thinking about riding when at work, dreaming about riding and have that urge to go into a bike shop when we see one might be seen weird by non-cyclist partners or friends but they aren't terribly bad things, as long as we keep doing other important things in life. What ever they are?? Just kidding.

In a very promising note, medical organisations should be able to use this association to treat alcohol and drug addiction just by introducing physical activity to patients. Yes, it is a complex issue but who knows if a program where people with those problems could be taken to a velodrome, given some instructions and bikes and told to race wouldn't benefit from it.

A program of this kind would help a cycling organisation in getting some financial support to build a descent venue, which could also be used by other patients, of the cycling-addict type, to get their fix on the boards.

Training and injury

As this blog is about training also, I will continue to put down my graphs and stats. Perhaps, I will also put down a bit of information on what, why and what I am trying to achieve with my training. Unfortunately, my injury hasn't gone away and a decision on what the final treatment is going to be hasn't been reached either. With the help of a good physio, it is a kind of waiting game at the moment.

Hence, a change to the trainer sessions for now, from some intense intervals to long easy spins. A kind of base training as it is going to be a while before a get on the bike and race again...

Time: 2h; Virtual dist: 36 km;

AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm

Time: 1h; Virtual dist: 18.6 km;

AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm

So, on your bike and safe riding!

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