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Guest Blog: Six ways to Prevent Cycling Injuries.

TriBlogsby TriBlogsJul 30th 2013
Number two in the series of Guest Blogs from the experts at Six Physio with specialist physios in all three triathlon disciplines, read on for injury prevention tips for Cycling.
Guest Blog: Six ways to Prevent Cycling Injuries.
My name is Nichola Roberts, I am a cycling specialist and clinical lead physiotherapist. I have been a triathlete for many years competing in Olympic and half iron-man distance triathlons. Following an accident last year I have focused on competitive cycle racing, currently training for Haute Route Pyrenees. I am passionate about getting people back to the sport or activity that they love and recognise the importance of finding the root cause of the problem in order to provide long term solutions. I currently work out of the the Fleet Street Clinic at Six physio and provides Physiotherapy, cycling assessments and rehabilitation.

Here are six ways that you can help prevent cycling injuries and improve performance.
1) Stretch

Spending many hours in the saddle as a result of training and racing can lead to shortening of major muscle groups such as hip flexors, hamstrings, gluteals (buttocks) and quadriceps. As these muscles shorten they add additional stress and compression to the surrounding joints and tendinous attachments. A common reason for knee pain is simply tightening of the rectus femoris muscle of the quadriceps. Regular stretching can help prevent this. Consider yoga or Pilates, a helpful adjunct to training, helping to maintain muscle balance as well as maintaining spinal flexibility.
2) Core strengthening

We hear a lot about core strength, but do you really understand it and how it can help? Core refers to the cylinder of muscle surrounding the trunk. It supports the spine and the abdominal contents. It comprises the deep layer of muscles of transversus abdominus, pelvic floor diaphragm. These muscles lie beneath the 'six pack' muscles of the rectus abdomius. They are endurance muscles, training needs to be specific and specific to task. The ability to stabilise your upper body on the bike allows greater power transfer to your legs which leads to greater speed and efficiency.
3) Incremental training increase

It is important that your training increases incrementally and is consistent. This is both in terms of mileage as well as the amount of climbing involved. If you take a break from the bike through holiday or illness, then start back easy. Often injuries are caused by a sudden change in demand in the body and can result in tendinopathies that require complete rest off the bike, scuppering training. Be specific with your training regarding the event. A flat course on a TT bike requires flat training on your TT bike. Hills, train hills. Interval training is also important to increase performance. Turbo trainers are not just for winter and can be a great way to add specificity to your training with accurate training within target HR zones or Power without adding 'junk miles' from long rides that can add to musculoskeletal stress with reduced training benefits.
4) Adequate nutrition on the bike

It is important to ensure the muscles are getting adequate fuel and that you stay hydrated. Neglecting either of these leads to a drop in performance and concentration. This itself can lead to a loss of form, muscular fatigue, or even risk of accident. Work out what works for you in terms of bike food e.g. gels, bars; also work out your method of carrying them. Opening wrappers pre race can help when racing and prevent losing time during the race (this goes for bars not gels!). Tri bar top bags (bento box) can make it much easier to reach rather than jersey pocket. Keep drinking on the bike consider electrolyte/ carb depending on your requirements.
5) Get a bike fit

Cycling requires harmony between body and bike. Getting your bike set up assessed by a professional will help to reduce injury, increase comfort and improve performance. Small adjustments can lead to big gains. Considerations such as saddle, reach and shoe cleat set up can make or break the cyclist. It is important for the assessment to include a physical assessment off the bike. That way if you have any imbalances such as weak or tight areas they can be addressed off the bike, rather than changing the bike to accommodate them which may lead to long term problems. Do you have a road bike and a TT bike? It is important to get a set up for both. (Many places will offer a discount for second bike set up.)
6) Good posture at work

If you sit at a computer at work try to sit with good balanced posture. We can spend many hours a day at the desk leading to changes in the spine/shoulder/pelvis to accommodate prolonged sitting. Be aware of how your hand reaches for the mouse, are you rotated? Is the shoulder sitting forward? Do you cross your legs? This can lead to an imbalance in the pelvis. These imbalances become set and are repeated on the bike leading to common issues such as knee maltracking or lower back pain. Try and sit well at the computer, with the screen directly in front of you, take regular breaks and stretch at the desk.

Most importantly enjoy the ride!

If you would like more information about Six Physio and their physiotherapy services visit their website
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