Cycling is big in Tucson. We have the weather, the roads, and the people to make it enjoyable. Before you get out there this winter, take a look at the top three things you can do to ensure that you can rack up the miles without tallying up your aching body parts.
1 – Don’t increase your mileage too quickly.
Increasing mileage and time in the saddle too much too fast opens doors to overuse injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis, and increased stress to tissues and joints that are not yet ready for those volumes. If you’re planning to train for a race or event, give yourself plenty of time. If there’s no certain event in your future, but you just want to get into better shape, you have plenty of time. Increasing your mileage on the bike by 10-12% per week is ideal. This means if you ride 40 miles one week, you should not ride more than 45 miles the following week. These miles should be spaced fairly evenly throughout the week, but one ride should be a bit longer than the others as you work on your endurance. The more miles you progress to each week, the more you can add the following week. For example, 10% of 40 miles suggests a 4 mile increase the following week, but 10% of 100 miles allows for a 10 mile increase.
2- Get a proper on- and off-bike assessment.
It’s no secret that bicycles are not one-size-fits-all. Road and mountain bikes are sold in a variety of sizes to fit a rider, but that is only the beginning in the fit process. Bicycles are full of adjustable components, such as cleats, crank arms, seat posts, saddles, and stems. Adjustments of these components can make a huge difference in comfort and performance by achieving well-researched, ideal body angles on the bicycle. Research has shown that as little as a 2% difference in seat height change is perceptible by the rider and capable of significantly altering the feel and comfort. In addition to altering the bicycle, it may be necessary to alter the human. See a physical therapist who specializes in the evaluation and management of the cycling population to identify any muscle strength imbalances, joint flexibility deficits, and pain syndromes for a comprehensive off-the-bike treatment plan to keep you on the bike longer.
3 – Counteract maladaptive postures.
The position you are in when on your bicycle, even in the case of the most ideal fit, is not a natural position. Spending several hours in that position each week can begin to shorten some muscles and simultaneously put elongating stresses on others. This results in pain both on the bike and at rest in many cases. For example, the anterior chest muscles, the pectoral muscles, can become tight and shortened while the muscles that attach the shoulder blades to the spine suffer the opposite effect. Doing exercises off of the bike that counteract these effects will result in less pain with cycling as well as with activities other than cycling. Exercises that focus on posture in the mid and lower back, neck, and shoulder blades can be essential. Stay tuned for a future blog post on specific exercises to do just that.