Injury Prevention for Cyclists
This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of working with elite amateur and professional cyclists as they accrued 15,000 ft of climbing between a 2 day training camp outside of Asheville, NC. Personally, I sought refuge from the hills near the French River Basin to log running miles of my own while they were on their training rides.
I had a lovely backdrop of the Smoky mountains as I spoke about injury prevention, strength training, and cycling-specific orthopedic issues that riders face. While I highly recommend escaping to the mountains for a few days, I thought I would recap some of the highlights here, since you couldn’t be there with us.
The single most important thing you can do to take care of your body as a cyclist is to get a proper bike fit. Cycling is unique in that the athlete is in a fixed position with minimal extraneous movement available. The bike fit should be a dynamic process, because our bodies are dynamic! Getting a bike fit at the start of each season is ideal, even if there are just a few small changes to be made. A new fit is also imperative after an injury of any kind, whether it’s related to cycling/triathlon or not, because we know that our bodies inevitably move differently after injury or in response to pain. Be sure to communicate with your bike fitter about past injuries, any discomfort on rides of any distance or intensity, and what race distances you are training for. The bike fit for an Ironman will be different than that for an Olympic distance triathlon, and the fit for Crit racing will be different than that for stage racing.
Even though cycling is a low impact sport, it is still highly repetitive and can lead to overuse injuries. Strength training is important for cyclists to improve the load tolerance of muscles/tendons, as well as increase capacity for power output. A challenging strength training routine will help build the foundation for increased power output and training gains. Seriously, if you want to start pushing on the ceiling of your cycling potential, start strength training. It’s also important to incorporate lateral (side-to-side) movements to offset the forward-backward nature of cycling.
Core strengthening is often neglected in cycling, but is so important to maintain posture during long hours of pedaling. Being able to breathe efficiently and position yourself correctly on the bike is important to protect you from lower back and neck pain, which are the two most common pain complaints of cyclists.
Lastly, the right equipment can help maximize comfort and minimize injury on the bike. A properly fitting helmet and sunglasses will help keep neck pain and fatigue at bay. Your sunglasses should have large enough frames and fit snugly on your face so that you don’t have to change your head/neck position to see properly. This is why the “shield” type sunglasses are optimal, and of course they also make you look like a true pro. Gloves can help with possible nerve compression of the hands, and are definitely worth adding to your wardrobe if your hands tingle or fall asleep during training rides. If you have knee or foot issues, it’s also important to look at the type of shoe, cleat, and pedal you’re using. Some cleat-pedal interfaces allow for more or less movement, and some athletes do better with one or the other. Your bike fitter should be able to look at this for you and make suggestions that will work best with your body and experience level.
I hope that this article helps you pedal long and healthy! On a completely different note, if you want to have a Precision team member speak for your group, give us a shout at email@example.com.
Keep going, you got this!
Kacy Seynders, PT, DPT