Health benefits, green transportation and exhilarating fun make the lengthy list of reasons cycling is so popular. Enthusiasts persist despite injury, demonstrating that this sport is one that inspires commitment even in the face of challenge and discomfort.
If you are one of the 80 million Americans who love to ride, you can reduce your risk of cycling-related injury with increased awareness of the causes leading to a few simple changes.Knee ProblemsOveruse combined with improper form renders your knees vulnerable to pain and injury. Build your muscle strength to combat overuse fatigue. Include exercises such as lunges, planks, squats, and step ups in your off-road training. Stretch before and after you ride, and keep your training regime consistent with gradual changes rather than drastic.Anterior (front) knee pain is common and is caused by quad tightness that can cause the patella (knee cap) to track incorrectly.
It can happen to riders who sit too low and too far forward and as a result exert too much force on their knees. Stretch and foam roll your quads to loosen them, and check the position of your bike seat.Posterior (back) knee pain is related to your hamstrings. If the saddle of your bike is positioned too high or too far back, you can hyper extend your leg and overload the capacity of the knee to handle its workload. If you have posterior pain, lower your seat and move it forward. Briefly apply ice once an hour, and spend time stretching and foam rolling your hamstrings, calves and glutes.
Medial (inside) and lateral (outside) pain in your knees can also result from form and overuse issues similar to those that cause anterior and posterior pain. If you have pain on the sides of your knees you may also want to look at your cleat position. Your knee pain might be from an inward or outward tilt from cleats that are not set up to be straight.
Lower Back PainYour competitive drive resulting in long hours spent improving your riding times may end up hurting your lower back. The lumbar region of your spine is vulnerable to nerve interference from excessive flexion which may necessitate medical intervention. Incorporate core training as part of your fitness regimen to help support your back. Core training is often overlooked by cyclists but is an essential part of maintaining your race-ready fitness.Achilles TendonitisAchilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, located on the back of your lower leg just above your heel.
Inflammation can be caused by microtears, which are often the result of overuse. Stretching helps keep this tendon pliable, as well as increases circulation to the area.If you have Achilles tendonitis, take some days off from training to rest and ice the injured area. Check your bike seat: if it’s too high and your toes point downward, your calves remain contracted which can overstretch tendons. Lower your bike seat so that your toes point up during the lower portion of each pedal stroke.
Muscle TightnessMuscle tightness can happen from any sport, and cycling is no exception. Prolonged time in a seated position can result in tight hip muscles, in spite of the fact that you’re actively moving your legs. This can be prevented with stretching before and after you ride.Include hip flexor stretches in your pre-ride warm up to loosen up your hip muscles. While riding, pay attention to proper form and maintain good posture. During your ride, stand and pedal occasionally, especially up steeper grades, to stretch your legs.
Stretch again, post-ride, as part of your cool down.Saddle SoresProlonged friction from too much time chafing and sweating on a bike seat can cause painful skin lesions knows as saddle sores. Sometimes they are a minor annoyance and other times they can keep you off your bike completely and even result in infection if lesions become ulcerated.Make sure that you have the right bike seat for your anatomy and that it’s not positioned too high on your bike. Wear shorts designed for cycling, with minimal seams to reduce friction. Treat the irritated area with chamois cream to reduce friction and kill bacteria.
Shower and dry the area immediately after each training session, and wash your shorts after every ride.Foot NumbnessIf you’re not riding in cold weather and you still experience foot pain, the culprit is likely your shoes. Avoid shoes that are too narrow, and pay attention to cleat position to ensure that they’re not so far forward that they’ll place excessive pressure on the ball of the foot.
Shoulder PainIf you’ve ridden a long distance with too much weight on your hands and your elbows locked, you may experience shoulder pain. Try relaxing your hands, and keep your elbows loose to act as springs that prevent impact shocks from travelling up your arms to your shoulders.There’s more to cycling than hopping on your bike and going for a ride. It’s a sport that is as demanding as it is fun and can result in injury and discomfort.
Fortunately, you can minimize or even eliminate these issues with the right preparation, form, equipment and exercises so that you can continue to enjoy your time on the road.