Tom Smurr is a member of Vital Proteins Customer Advocate Team. In this weekly blog series, Tom (@triathletetommy on Instagram!) offers an inside look at his journey to the paratriathlon.
Biking was something I was always capable of doing, but in a limited fashion. Biking was one of my favorite things to do outdoors, so I was really looking forward to taking it more seriously. For my first bike, I set it up so that the entire thing was propelled with one leg allowing me to get moving. This limited me in how long I could bike for, so I knew I needed a change.
It was time to set up the bike progressively to build strength on both legs. Upgrades started in the form of pedal cages to hold my prosthetic in and adjusting the bike settings so that the prosthetic wouldn’t awkwardly touch the bike frame.
After receiving a new prosthetic that better fit my unique body type, the ability to power down on the left pedal increased dramatically. It required me to get used to bike clips as well, which is something that is very difficult to “feel” when on a fake foot! All of a sudden, I wasn’t scared of hills, accelerating ahead, or taking sharper turns.
Now I could focus on “evening out” the power onto both of my legs. Riding the lake path in Chicago has always been an easy path to follow, so most of my rides started there. The first 10 minutes would be spent just getting the legs warm and consistent. Then, I would work on increasing speed while going into arrow formation for at least 30-second bursts. By focusing on pushing with the prosthetic, I could start to build those muscles appropriately. I would even put a hand on the leg to help push it down to continue focus on that leg.
On days when I feel sore, I find that biking is the best endurance building activity to do. I’m not very fast yet, but the constant use of both legs does a lot for my quads, hamstrings, knees, and core. In building this endurance, there needs to be less focus on power (like I was used to in wheelchair basketball). Before hitting the showers, I make it a point to stretch out completely with the prosthetic, both on and off.
Enjoying a good nutrition bar that is dense in calories from both fat and complex carbs is great to have in the middle of the bike ride. I really like this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bar recipe, a no-bake snack that calls for good-for-you ingredients like, oats, almonds, cinnamon, and Vital Proteins® Collagen Peptides.
What’s important for me is keeping my legs moving and replenished with electrolytes. The only way I’ve been able to do so is with electrolyte mixes blended with water. Instead of using “pre-workout” mixes, I like to use just a mix of electrolytes and BCAA to fuel me. Sometimes a little coffee beforehand provides me with an energy boost, too!
I was able to build up my biking distance just using the aforementioned strategies and consistently taking rides. In one season, I was able to go from a maximum of 3 miles maximum to 15 miles with zero issues. With the strength built, I can now practice transitioning from biking into running – something that requires a lot more attention!