Get­ting phys­i­cal

Cyclist - - Lab Rat - Words JAMES SPENDER Pho­tog­ra­phy GE­ORGE MAR­SHALL

Just what is cy­cling do­ing to our bod­ies, and should we be seek­ing pro­fes­sional help? Cy­clist delves into the world of phys­io­ther­apy to find out

mag­ine cling­film – but about half as thick – wrapped un­der­neath your skin but around and over the top of the mus­cles. That’s the fas­cia, a thin layer of tis­sue that’s con­nected to the mus­cles,’ ex­plains Dr Matt Stride, con­sul­tant in sport and ex­er­cise medicine. ‘It runs from your head to your heels, back and front, so you can imag­ine when your body and mus­cles are held in the cy­cling po­si­tion there is nat­u­rally a lot of stress be­ing put through the fas­cia. Depend­ing on who you are and how long your ride is, that stress can cause a pulling type sen­sa­tion across the neck, and man­i­fest in headaches. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that?’

I rub a hand across the nape of my neck and nod at Dr Stride. It’s a prob­lem that’s plagued me ever since I stepped up from rel­a­tively short, high-in­ten­sity spins to longer en­durance rides. It’s an odd sen­sa­tion, rather like a heavy ob­ject is get­ting slowly low­ered onto the top of my spine, but one that only seems to crop up af­ter 120km or so, and one that quickly sub­sides once I hit the shower.

In fact it’s this, as well as sev­eral other spo­rad­i­cally oc­cur­ring nig­gles – all pretty much co­in­cid­ing with longer rides – that has fi­nally brought me into Dr Stride’s con­sul­ta­tion room at the cen­tral Lon­don branch of phys­io­ther­a­pists, Isoki­netic.

‘So what can you do about it?’ asks Stride. ‘Well, it’s all about try­ing to do the op­po­site, try­ing to open things up, which means do­ing things like up­per limb stretches or just walk­ing around to re­duce the ten­sion. The cat type stretch is good – ly­ing on your front and push­ing up with your hands to try and ex­tend the spine.’ He mo­tions for me to lie on a padded ta­ble and do as he says.

The un­bear­able tight­ness of be­ing

Like many cy­clists, I’ve al­ways tried to em­brace the ‘no pain, no gain’ ap­proach to rid­ing, ac­cept­ing that putting my body through a de­gree of dis­com­fort is all part of the cy­cling phi­los­o­phy. That, mixed with a (now with­er­ing) sense of youth­ful in­vin­ci­bil­ity that has seen me twice hos­pi­talised in the name of two wheels (a rather un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous crash

Sim­ply by get­ting Cy­clist to lie on a ta­ble and fol­low his in­struc­tions, a skilled phys­io­ther­a­pist such as Dr Matt Stride can build a pic­ture of the nig­gles that are caus­ing us pain, what’s caus­ing them and, best of all, how to fix them

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