Thursday, April 10, 2008

Starting the Cycling Season Off Right

Starting the Cycling Season off Right

With the snow starting to melt and the temperature rising, we are all itching to get back out on our bikes. For those who have put their bikes away for the winter season, it is extremely important to build back to your previous fitness level and form gradually in order to prevent overuse injuries. This is even more important if you have a history of previous injuries.
Early in the season is when extra keen cyclists are at particular risk of injury.
So to start the cycling season off right :

Bike Tune Up
Make sure that your bike is safe and in good working condition.
Worn out or improperly adjusted bearings, brakes and derailleurs can lead to a less efficient ride and more work than necessary.
Have your favorite LBS examine the condition of your bike and tune it up for you if you are not mechanically inclined.

Review your Cycling Clothing and Equipment
Check your clothing and equipment for wear and replace them as needed.
A worn out saddle or shorts will affect your comfort on your bike and as a result may affect your entire riding position on your bike.
Make sure that your handlebar tape and gloves are still offering good comfortable padding.
Make sure that your cycling shoes aren't worn and too flexible in the sole. This will be less supportive and may lead to discomfort and numbness in your feet.

Dress of the Weather
With the cooler spring weather make sure you keep your body and working muscles warm. Cover your extremities, hands, head and feet well if it is cold. Dress in layers so you may remove one once you or the weather has warmed up. Keep a light rain jacket in your back pocket in case the weather turns foul.

Build a Base
Start the season off with shorter rides and easy spinning at 90+ RPM. Your easy rides will allow your cycling muscles to slowly and safely build and adapt to the new work of riding again. Ride different bikes. Road riding is a valuable training tool that can help build your aerobic fitness and endurance. Supporting your body differently and requiring different muscle recruitment patterns helps prevent injuries.
Avoid pushing big gears up hills or against those nasty spring headwinds. If you can; go out against the wind and back with the tailwind to give yourself a nice recovery ride on your return.
Increase your mileage slowly to build your endurance.
Start off with non-technical rides and slowly increase the difficulty to retrain your riding skills.

Warm Up
Always start each ride off with a warm up at an easy pace for the first 10 minutes. This will start the blood circulating in your muscles to warm them up. Even if you feel energetic and enthusiastic, don't start out like a bat out of hell ! This is the best way to strain a muscle/tendon or flare up an old injury.
After 10 minutes it's a good idea to get off your bike and stretch your quads, hams and calves. It only takes a couple of minutes.
Gradually increase your pace and your body will thank you.

Cool Down
Ride easy for at least the last 10 minutes of your ride. This will flush the toxins out of your working muscles and allow your body to properly cool down.
After your ride it is important to stretch for 5 - 15 minutes to help your muscles regain their flexibility.
Tight inflexible muscles will increase your risk of injury. Stretch your major cycling muscles :
Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, and your back. Repeat each stretch 5 times holding for 20 seconds. You should feel a mild tightness, but not pain with each stretch.

Pay Attention to any areas of Discomfort
Other than tired muscle aches your ride should be comfortable. So be particularly aware of any discomforts in your back and neck or knees early on. If any pain does not disappear over the next couple of rides and maybe a couple of adjustments to your bike; then make sure to have someone take a closer look at your riding position. Continuing to ride in a poor position can lead to a serious overuse injury. Back and knee pain are not an integral part of cycling as some have come to believe. Mountain biking should be a fun and enjoyable experience.
These simple tips and patients in building your foundation will translate into a season of success !!

Safe and Happy Cycling !!!

Mary Paterson PT


Peter M said...

Sure, these are good pointers if we're the type of person who isn't invincible. But we BRR types ARE invincible. Craig and I had that very discussion when we first met at Mary's clinic 18 months ago, when we were both in being repaired for some serious injuries. Oh. Wait. Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog post - keep it up!

Here’s a good post on the “The Science of Cycling Position” which help as well: