AVOID INJURY—BEFORE IT SIDELINES YOU
F A good bike fit is your first step to pain-free pedaling, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid a cycling injury. How you fit on your bike frame is only half the equation. The other, sometimes-overlooked half is the status of your own body’s frame—how robust, mobile, and balanced it is as you ride.
“It frustrates a lot of people. They’ll come in and say, ‘I just paid all this money for a bike fit and I still hurt,’” says clinical bike fitter, USA Cycling certified coach, and physical therapy cycling specialist Ellen Foster, DPT, of Beyond Exercise in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Bike fit is the first thing we look at when someone is injured. But it’s not a magic cure-all for injuries. It’s one part of the picture.”
The rest of that picture includes making sure you practice preventive techniques like strength training, stretching, foam-rolling and/ or using massage guns, as well as smart training and riding practices, Foster says. Broadly speaking, a few key strategies will help you stop a cycling injury before it happens. Here’s what to know. (For kneespecific tips, check out “Knock Out Knee Pain for Good,” page 44.)
CHECK YOUR FIT—AGAIN //
It’s not a magic shield against cycling injury, but it’s still your first step toward injury prevention and resolution. Remember that your body changes over time, so if it’s been a few seasons, it might be time for a tune-up with a professional fitter.
CHECK YOUR RIDING SCHEDULE //
Cycling is low-impact, so it’s easy for most people to do—and overdo. “What does your training plan look like? Did you go from not riding at all to pushing it every day? If you’re putting more stress on your body, you need to have rest and recovery periods to let your body adapt to that stress,” Foster says.
“We see a lot of clients from Peloton, because they’re looking for a workout and they’re smashing Power Zone rides every single day,” Foster says. It’s also easy to overdo it with Zwift because users get hooked on the hard rides and races and don’t allow for enough recovery, she notes. Stick to the general rule of only doing two to three truly hard rides per week.
STRENGTH TRAIN // Strength training doesn’t have to be about building big muscles. “You do squats, deadlifts, lunges, and kettlebell swings to make tendons, cartilage, bone, and all the tissues you don’t see in the mirror—as well as your muscles—strong and resilient,” Foster says. Aim to get into the gym two to three days a week to lift in the off-season, and then, as the bike intensity goes up, you can switch to maintenance mode. To sustain your progress, you can do as little as 15 to 20 minutes of strength training twice a week.
WARM UP // Most of us just hop on our bikes and start riding. But to prime your muscles and connective tissues to pedal, you should move them first with a quick dynamic warm-up. “Just two minutes of activating your muscles and taking your joints through a full range of motion can help get your muscles ready for action and avoid soreness and injury,” Foster says.
MOVE AROUND // Cycling can be a very static activity, forcing your muscles into the same position for hours on end—increasing injury risk. Foster advises: “Make a conscious effort to move around on the bike. Sit up and extend through the spine. Twist a bit from side to side. Rotate your pelvis forward and back. Get out of that same position.”—S.Y.