Olympic cyclist Dani Rowe: 'My bones aren't up to running'

Dani Rowe, nee King, Laura Trott, and Joanna Rowsell of Great Britain pose with their Gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Women's Team Pursuit Track Cycling Finals after breaking the World Record on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Velodrome on August 4, 2012 in London, England. Image copyright Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Image caption Dani Rowe (left) with Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell after winning the team pursuit at London 2012

When Olympic gold medallist Dani Rowe retired from elite cycling, the self-confessed exercise addict set her sights on the 2019 London marathon.

The 28-year-old had competed for Wales in last year's Commonwealth Games and was in peak condition - she thought.

But within months of starting running she developed two stress fractures in her right leg, and a scan showed the start of another in her left.

"I wanted to get straight into running… I never thought my bones wouldn't be up to it," the three-time world champion said.

Experts said all the hours of bike training meant her bones were not used to any impact, even though her bone density, which had been monitored during her cycling career, was normal.

Image copyright Getty Allsport
Image caption Rowe trained intensively on her bike, but otherwise avoided standing or walking as much as possible

The NHS recommends bone-strengthening activities for each age group, such as brisk walking, running or dancing, as part of weekly exercise.

But from the age of around 18, Rowe - who previously competed under her maiden name Dani King - did as little as possible on rest days, even wearing a fitness tracker to keep her step count down.

"You're always being told don't stand if you can sit, don't sit if you can lie and I always took that to the extreme," she said.

"I almost didn't even walk for 10 years... The most walking I did was from the car to the velodrome."

In the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, if she had walked just 1,000 steps in a day she would have done "too much".

Image caption Self-confessed exercise addict Rowe is doing "couch to 5k" style training to help her body adjust

A study published in the BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine journal last year showed elite road cyclists had lower bone mineral density compared with runners.

The research, which studied bone scans of a total of 40 male and female athletes as well as monitoring their calcium intake, found the cyclists had thinner bones.

It concluded they should consider branching out to weight-bearing exercises like skipping or hiking.

Rowe said she would now advise others - particularly aspiring cyclists - to vary their training.

"I think it is better for your body to do a mixture of different sports... for me, I was so specifically bike-fit that if I did anything else I'd be aching for days, which is crazy."

Rowe is now enjoying boxing classes, boot-camps, and swimming, but her goal is still to complete the London marathon.

"I've just got to take my time and build up really slowly, so almost doing 'couch to 5k' and 'couch to 10k' type training," she added.

"I want to do it even more than ever now, and I think I will one day, hopefully next year."

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