As winter wanes and the light returns, many of you will choose to take up cycling as a form of exercise. Cycling is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that can help to strengthen your legs and core as well as help you to lose those extra holiday pounds! Although riding a bike is……Well…… like “riding a bike”, if your body is not used to the pressures and strains involved in cycling, your new year resolution may not last as long as you’d hoped. This blog will give you an insight into cycling, some of its biomechanics, the dos and don’ts to allow you to remain healthy and free from injury, as well as to make the most out of your newfound interest in cycling.
The most common types of injuries that we see because of cycling are leg-based muscle and tendon strains, hip bursitis and lower back aches.
BEFORE YOU GET ON THE BIKE
When thinking about taking up or returning to cycling there are a few considerations to make and here are a few top tips:
- Make sure that your equipment is adequate – make sure that your bike is the correct frame and wheel size for you and is set up as ergonomically as possible. Saddle - You should be able to touch the ground safely when stopping and when cycling your leg shoulder not fully lock out at its lowest point. Handlebars – they should be positioned to not force you to lean forwards or to put pressure on your back (general rule is if you feel lower back pain raise the handlebars, if you get upper back pain lower them). If you are really concerned or going to be spending more than 1 hour at a time on the bike – I recommend that you take your bike to have a proper bike fit to ensure that your bike is set up right for you.
- Is the bike fit for purpose? – when starting cycling and digging the bike out from the back of the garage, it is essential to do a thorough check to ensure that the tires are fully inflated, the brakes work, the chain is moving cleanly and free from rust, as well as glancing over the framework to ensure that your bike is safe to ride.
- Are you visible? – consider wearing high visibility clothing and make sure that reflectors and lights are fitted to your bike and helmet where possible – especially if cycling on the road.
- Are you warm enough? – I know that your aim is to get hot and sweaty, but it is important that you wrap up when starting to cycle as wind passing over you can reduce your core temperature and if you stop, you will really notice the cold. I advise multiple thin layers rather than one thick layer, as you can remove or add layers as required. Really consider extremities such as feet and hands – if you cannot feel your hands, you may not be able to change gear/brake or fully control the handlebars.
- Diet and hydration – ensure that you drink plenty of fluids before you cycle and have adequate calories before going for a cycle. It is always tempting to diet and take up exercise together hand in hand, but cycling can often burn around 600 calories per hour and so you need to make sure that the vehicle has fuel. Like with hydration if you fail to stay on top of this you can be left feeling faint and may not be in complete control of your bike if this happens. Many people take isotonic gel packs or sweets such as jelly babies as a back up in case this happens.
I advise adequately warming up in preparation for cycling, to get the blood flowing and the muscles loose and more prepared to be used. The best way to do this is by using dynamic stretches – which means you stretch through movement rather than in a static position. Here is a few that I recommend:
It is important to stretch the main muscle groups worked after exercise to allow the efficient healing and reduce the chances of injury. For cycling you should always stretch your leg muscles and buttock muscles. Here is a few that I Recommend:
To ensure that your body is primed and ready for cycling and to further support your body, I recommend a couple of accessory exercises that will strengthen the supporting muscles (smaller muscles that work without us realizing). Here is a few that I would suggest:
Now that you have the basics to get you started, remember the most important part of exercising – to enjoy it and stay safe! If things don’t go to plan, you want to improve or you find yourself with unwanted aches or pains you know how to find us and our experts will be more than willing to help.