We might take it for granted that the 9 to 5 job leaves the morning and evening for riding.... but that's not the same for shift workers.
With research showing that it's vitally important for shift workers to stay physically fit and healthy to help avoid injury, Katie Quinn brings us the guide to survive shift work while cycling.
Words - Katie Quinn
“Are you coming riding tomorrow?”
“I Can’t... I’m working”
This is a situation I know only too well. No longer only the domain of heavy industry and emergency services, as Australia keeps up with the global market shift work is moving into “white collar” occupations too. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that 16% of the Australian workforce are shift workers, and shockingly this group of workers recorded an injury rate nearly double the rate of non-shift workers.
Worksafe agrees; health and fitness are contributing factors to fatigue, so it is vitally important for shift workers to maintain a good level of physical fitness. Making an effort to do physical activity during your leisure time will contribute to your overall health and help you to better manage your fatigue levels.
So good news for cycling fanatics, your exercise of choice will assist in keeping shiftwork work-life balance-related problems at bay, and here are some practical things you can do to make the most of your cycling and still keep your income coming in.
1 - GET ORGANISED
This is the number one thing that impacts on my riding. There’s nothing worse than having the opportunity to ride, but finding that you can’t fit it in around all the other errands and tasks you put off doing during your working week. Look at your roster, look at the cycling events you have coming up and work out what your goals are. Are the feasible? Work out what you need to make this happen.... (hire a nanny, be discovered by a Pro Team, win Tatslotto)
2 - MULTI-TASK
Study while on the trainer? Check
Plan your week ahead during quiet times at work? Check
Commute to work to get those extra kms in? Check
Sleep under your desk while your boss is out of the room? Double check!
3 - PLAN YOUR HEART OUT
Let your riding buddies know what’s coming up with your week ahead and let them know when you’re available. That way they’ll keep you accountable and you’ll at least show up to your rides, you may be fatigued but at least you’ll be there! Also by letting the gang know when you’re not around hopefully they won’t taunt you with happy snaps from their spins, so there’s at least half a chance of lessening the FOMO.
4 - RECRUIT YOUR BACK-UP TEAM
Who are the people in your life that will help you out of a jam? Do you have that supportive partner that will give up their weekend to tag along to your daggy bike race? Tell them about your master plan and how they can help. Bribe them if necessary. Tell them there’s no greater feeling than watching those you love succeed... even if it involves those early morning wakeup calls.
How about your colleagues and your boss? Happy employees are 12% more productive; they take fewer sick days and produce 37% greater sales according to Forbes Magazine. Perhaps if those you work with know about the big event you have on the horizon they’ll be more inclined to help you out with shift swaps and time off.
5 - SLEEP
Fatigue is going to affect your performance, and you need to make sure that you and your friends are kept safe on the road. There’s no point heading out for a ride if you’re going to be so tired that you’re placing yourself, your friends and other road users at risk.
The literature out there is clear. The sleep/wake cycle that we experience as humans can be tinkered with, by adjusting your patterns of light and darkness, activity, eating and drinking, noise and social interaction. But ultimately sleep is sleep, and there’s very little that will substitute for quality shut-eye. Dedicate enough time to remaining horizontal, and know that sometimes it’s ok to say no to a ride. There will be others.
6 - QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The best rides for training or otherwise don’t always have to the longest. Perhaps it’s time that you invested in an indoor trainer? Or a virtual coach? Or a real coach? Or a crazy unemployed friend that is available and keen to ride around the clock. Maximise your available time, because let’s face it, these days we’re all busy. Numerous free training plans can be found online to point you in the right direction. Input your available hours, your goals and hey presto, you’re on your way!
7 - NUTRITION
Shift workers are more likely to be overweight and suffer from significant health problems. Bad news, you’re also at risk of a premature death. You probably already know this so FIGHT BACK! Back to point one, an organised cyclist will take care to eat right and prepare healthy meals in advance and have them available especially when the 3am munchies take hold.
8 - DON'T WORRY BE APPY
There’s plenty of free iPhone and Android Apps around to help you to cope. Ones to consider are those that produce a shift work diary, so you can pass your roster around to your family and friends – think maximum riding time, less disturbances when you’re sleeping. I’d recommend “ShiftLife Organizer” in combination with “SleepTrack” so you can see how much quality rest you’ve had and “Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock”, so when you do have to open those weary eyes you can attempt to be fairly rested.
9 - DON'T STOP
A University of California study recently brought cyclists some good news. They found appropriately timed exercise can improve the circadian rhythms of rodents, and their results clearly indicate that exercise might be used to promote circadian adaptation to night shift work.
Exercising in general is going to benefit the shift worker in so many ways, so get on your bike! In need of some motivation and inspiration? Head across to Strava and Instagram for some good old-fashioned gloating. Don’t forget to celebrate your personal success. Just getting out on the bike may be huge for you after nightshift. That’s right, you’re a legend.
10 - LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
For shift workers around the world the challenge to stay fit, healthy, awake and mostly sane is a constant battle, however there are some benefits to keeping unusual hours. You’ll hopefully have the opportunity to head out for the infamous “pro-hours” rides, where you might be the least pro out there, but you’re enjoying the sunshine while the 9-to-5 crowd are indoors. This is your moment to shine!