Gift leads to women’s cycling club

Emma Woodcock, Velo Vixen’s founder, says a bicycle present helped her to regain her well-being after father’s death.
The Yas Marina circuit is packed with fitness enthusisasts on a Tuesday night, 60 per cent of whom are cyclists. Delores Johnson / The National
The Yas Marina circuit is packed with fitness enthusisasts on a Tuesday night, 60 per cent of whom are cyclists. Delores Johnson / The National

DUBAI // Cycling had such a positive impact on Emma Woodcock’s health and well-being that she decided to start her own club a year and a half ago.

“It’s been a massive, life-saving thing for me,” said the Dubai resident. “My whole lifestyle changed, and I’m really passionate about getting more people into it.”

Her women’s cycling club, Velo Vixens, has about 220 members and aims to offer new cyclists a less intimidating environment than they might encounter in other groups.

Her husband bought her a bike for her 41st birthday. She found the sport difficult at first, being unable to finish a 10-kilometre ride, but she now rides about 350km a week.

Before she started cycling, Ms Woodcock said she had been in poor health. She weighed 91 kilograms, and was drinking and smoking after her father’s death.

Thanks to cycling, her legs grew more muscular and she lost 26kg.

Ms Woodcock, who is now 45, said cycling made her more energetic and started her thinking about doing strength training and yoga.

The sport also had a positive effect on her psychological health.

“For me, it was an amazing way to recover from the grief, I think,” she said. “It’s like a kind of meditation in motion.”

Cycling’s low-impact, aerobic nature makes it one of the better sports that people can do as they age, according to Dr Charles Jones, a specialist at California Chiropractic and Sports Medicine in Dubai.

It can also be a sociable sport like golf, but with more exercise.

“You can burn a lot of calories relatively quickly,” said Dr Jones.

Cycling is good for exercising the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles, but people who want a more complete fitness regimen should make sure that they exercise their upper body and core too.

“If you ever watch the Tour de France, you can see how the lower half of their body gets very developed,” he said.

Cycling is a good source of cardiovascular exercise, which is essential for a person’s health because it keeps the heart and lungs strong.

“Ideally you should do a minimum of three days a week of some type of cardio exercise,” Dr Jones said. “But you can do cardio every day because that part of our fitness is critical.”

People with diabetes who exercise regularly should make sure that they eat properly before cycling, since the sport uses a lot of energy.

It is also essential to wear a helmet and to have the bicycle fitted by a professional, or the cyclist could be at risk of knee injuries or neck and shoulder pain, which are usually caused by riding a poorly fitted bike.

The ease and effectiveness of cycling has led to a popularity boom in the UAE, according to Kahn Luthiger, a spokesman for the TrainYas programme at Yas Marina Circuit.

He said that 60 per cent of people who took up the TrainYas programme were cyclists, and many who did so became hooked on it.

“What you find is that they go through and realise that cycling is fun, it’s low impact and easy to do. As a result, it’s improving the health of Abu Dhabi residents,” he said.

lcarroll@thenational.ae

Published: December 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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