By Carrie Brooks-Joiner, KAB member

Many sports work specific muscle groups to a greater extent than others. As dragon boaters, Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivors focus on strengthening the shoulders, core and lats, and improving our overall cardio-fitness. While we have heard one of our coaches say that “dragon boaters don’t need strong legs,” our health and fitness can benefit from adding other sports or types of activities.

Among the benefits of cross-training include:

  • Improved total fitness. By adding in other activities that bring in more cardio-fitness, stretching and/or strength training, we can improve our overall fitness.
  • Reduced risk of injury. Spread the load, and increase flexibility and strength.
  • Weight loss. More activity burns calories. Need I say more?
  • Sticking with fitness. Switching it up reduces boredom and provides new opportunities to try new things and train with others.

Cycling has proven to be an excellent cross-training addition for numerous KAB members this season. The sport adds a good dose of cardio-fitness, keeps hips strong and mobile, and gives our shoulders a break. Cycling still stresses the butt but there is some solace in that the soreness is in new areas! While cycling can be done alone it is certainly more fun in a group. KAB members have ventured out on bikes for several day trips this summer inspired by KAB member Norma Moores’s cycling enthusiasm and expertise.

The first trip started at the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge following the Waterfront Trail to Fifty Point Conservation Area and back. At Fifty Point we stopped for lunch and had a surprise visit with teammate Kim Short and partner Don on their sailboat. Truthfully, Norma sold this trip to reluctant me as only 20 km with an ice-cream at Hutch’s incentive. We ended up cycling over 50 km and there was no ice-cream. I didn’t think I could go that far on my “little-old-lady” upright city bike! But I was hooked and agreed to go on the next adventure…..

Trip #2 in late June started south of Copetown and followed the TH&B (Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo) Rail Trail to Brantford. Cycling on rail trails is a pleasure and the total of 50 km was surprisingly doable. As former train track lines, the elevations are gradual and the surfaces are either paved or hard packed. Highlights along this rural route included a break to admire the stained glass windows at the H.M. Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, a stop in at the Onkenhόn:we Festival at the Woodland Cultural Centre, and a chat with the archaeologists doing a dig at the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School site. After inhaling lunch (including ice-cream!), we turned around and headed back.

For trip #3 in early July we ventured out for a longer day and headed from Waterford to Port Dover (no it wasn’t Friday the 13th) on the Waterford Heritage Trail, Norfolk Sunrise Trail and Lynn Valley Trail . The scenery along the way included waterfalls, ginseng fields, heritage sites and forested areas. After fish and chips by Lake Erie and a bike repair, we headed back. Another 50 km under my belt.

August’s trip #4 was far more adventurous and included two overnights on the Greater Niagara Circle Route . We headed out after Saturday practice and went from Thorold to Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines and back to Thorold. The paved route follows the Welland Canals, Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario through urban centres, downtowns, the Niagara Escarpment, waterfronts and agricultural areas. It included a walk-on only ferry (named Bridge-it) and an incline railway ride with our bicycles. We triumphantly pedaled over 170 km.

KAB members cycle along the Welland Canal Parkway Trail
KAB members ride the Port Robinson walk-on ferry, Bridge-It

The members and accompanying partners / friends have differed on each trip. There has been a range of cycling skill levels and various types of bicycles. What has been constant is a good amount of exercise, seeing new vistas, shared snacks, and lots of laughs. 

Cycling has been an effective and fun addition to my fitness regime!  Inspired by the successful day and overnight trips and no longer daunted by longer distances, I’ve been cycling more on my own, and have reached more for my bike and less for my car keys. Cycling fits the bill to up my exercise level without adding something risky or completely new. I encourage you to find a form of cross training that gives you pleasure and keeps you motivated.