By Hengameh Bashar
Cycling classes and cycling bikes are a fixture at gyms across the globe. Why? Because millions of people have discovered what a powerful, fun, motivating way this is to lose weight, get in shape and feel great.
From minor discomforts to great annoyances, cycling, like all physical activities, comes with growing pains. Before dismissing the aches and pains as part of the road you need to travel to get fit, take some time to see if you can master the art of cycling.
A good place to start is checking your bike setup. Ask the instructor to demonstrate the three hand positions and five movements so you can maintain a perfect form.
Taking the time to identify and address the source of your discomfort will help prevent imbalances or injuries. Strength, endurance and flexibility of the muscles, ligaments and tendons must also be looked at when investigating problem areas. If you have discomforts that are beyond the scope of a classroom activity, always consult and visit a health care provider.
When addressing an achy lower back, there may be many variables to consider, such as poor posture, muscle tightness, muscle strain, muscle inflammation, or weight control. Strength in the muscles that keep the back stable and well aligned (back, leg and abdominal muscles), endurance in the muscle that support the back and flexibility in muscles, ligaments and tendons will all contribute to the health of the back.
The following are a few questions you should ask yourself before riding to help you determine how to address your aches and pains.
These suggestions are not a substitute for seeking professional health care.
- Check the alignment of your head.
- Is your head in the neutral position?
- The average head weighs 14 lbs: if the head is not maintained stacked over shoulders, neck strain can occur.
- Check handlebar height.
- Is your back extremely rounded?
- Are you too stretched out?
- How many classes are you taking in a week?
- Are you including strength and flexibility in your training?
- What is your lifestyle, work and activities outside of cycling?
DISCOMFORT IN THE SADDLE
- Is the saddle too high or too low?
- Have you dramatically increased training hours on the bike? Pressure on tender of the pelvis and sit bones need time to toughen.
- A seat may not be compatible to your anatomy. Purchasing a seat slider will allow you to reach a more comfortable fit.
- Regularly stand up to restore circulation to the area.
- Check alignment of wrist and hands.
- Is your wrist excessively flexed for long periods?
- Are the handlebars too low?
- Ask teacher to demonstrate neutral alignment of wrist.
- Is the bike seat height too low or too high?
- Check fore and aft position.
- Do you use too little or too much resistance?
- Check cadence.
- Check cleat alignment.
- What other activities do you participate in?
- Check your foot placement on the pedal.
- Check toe straps.
- Check type of shoes. A soft or improperly fitting shoe may cause discomfort.
- Check clear alignment.
From time to time, perhaps every three months, ask your instructor to visit proper form and technique. You need to remember that training is not just a matter of expending energy. Intelligent training requires proper attention to the ABCs of training. Remember, the alignment of your body from head to toe as addressed above. You need to appreciate, care and respect your body. After all, you only have one in this lifetime!!!
One very important part of your training (of any kind) is to warm up and cool down, followed by a proper session of full body stretches. The stretches should last 5 to 10 minutes, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. Often people join a class, without properly warming up or stretching, and most often, the same people walk out without a proper cool down and stretch at the end of a class. By doing this, they do not realizing the amount of harm they are causing their joints and muscles.
I personally believe stretching after a hard workout is the best part of the whole routine!
For more information please visit Spinning.com.
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