Increase your cycling fitness and prevent injury with these expert tips from specialist physiotherapists who have a passion for biking.
Get a biomechanical cycle assessment with a qualified Physiotherapist to ensure the way your bike is setup, and the way you ride it, is optimal for your body.
Reach for Fitness
Stretching too far for the handlebars is a common cause of back pain. Set your bike up so it’s right for you, replacing the stem with a shorter one if necessary.
Check your height
A seat at the wrong height is inefficient and a common cause of back pain. Set it for a 25-35 degree knee bend when the pedal is at the lowest
point in the pedal stroke.
Get the Stats
Use a watch, bike computer or an app to monitor your heart rate, cadence and/or power for motivation during your training to make sure they
are going in the right
Yes we all know we should stretch after a long ride but how often do we actually do it?
It’s the most effective way to avoid that ‘walk like a
penguin’ muscle pain and strains.
Shower & Stretch
Multi-tasking at its best!
Whilst having your hot shower post cycle ride, complete neck stretches with the water warming tight neck muscles such as your trapezius.
Stretch the chest
The rounded shoulder position on a bike means a tight chest and over-stretched upper back is a common problem, so it’s important to stretch the
chest, as well as your legs, after a ride.
Sit against a wall
With your back against a wall lower yourself until your hips & knees are at 90 degrees. Build up time in this static position to strengthen front of thighs and buttocks for longer rides.
Fluid loss causes the heart to work much harder (the darker your urine the less hydrated you are). Frequently drink small quantities of water or sports energy drink.
Love it or hate many cyclists agree porridge provides the perfect pre-ride meal. The low GI oats deliver sustained energy release and essential protein and nutrients
from the milk.
Bananas are a great natural instant energy hit and have the added benefit of providing a good source of magnesium and potassium which play a key role in muscle
Use your loaf
Eat malt loaf for slow release energy on long rides. It’s high in complex carbs, with some protein to promote the slow release of those carbs and
just a small amount of fat.
Vary your rides
The body gets used to the repetition of doing the same ride all the time. Vary the length and intensity to make your body work in different ways and feel the
Take it further
Do a longer ride every week or two to increase your endurance. You’ll soon find shorter rides becoming easier with your new found fitness and efficiency.
Go in bursts
On some of your rides try interval training. Do a few rounds of riding at a faster pace for 5 to 10 minutes, followed by a recovery period, for an effective cardio workout.
Hit the hills
We all hate those big never ending hills so use them as a training opportunity to build leg strength. Get into your rhythm and go for it!
General core conditioning exercises will help your proprioception (muscle balance) and stability, helping to prevent injury.
Use a Plank
The common ‘plank’ exercise gives you an all over work out. Increase the time you can hold the plank position, maintaining a good technique. How long before you’re shaking all over?
Use more Planks
Using a gym ball to modify your cycling specific exercises can allow you to vary your regime and progress your level of difficulty.
Eat fruit & veg
Consuming a wide variety of vitamins and minerals can provide you with natural immunity especially important during the winter months to fight off colds.
Consuming protein in your diet helps rebuild muscle damage so great to eat after a ride. Meat, fish, dairy and quinoa are rich in protein.
Clams not oysters
The clam exercise is a Pilates favourite taught to exercise stability muscles around the pelvis, vital to avoid bouncing in the saddle.
When out for a long ride take some food to avoid the dreaded ‘bonking’ to help you train for longer. Popular choices are nuts, bananas, dried fruit, cereal/energy
Cycle for transport
Use your bike for short local trips instead of the car or bus. Cycling to work, the shops, or to see friends is a great way to get a low-level aerobic workout.
Find new routes
Take the family
Family ride workout
Family bike rides can be frustratingly easy going for some. Do some interval training with occasional brief bursts ahead and doubling back to rejoin them
Cycling works your hamstrings (back of your thighs). Give them a well deserved stretch after a cycle ride by lying on your back and pulling a straight leg in towards your chest.
There’s an abdominal exercise called ‘The Bicycle’ or simply ‘Cycling’! This exercise is like a traditional sit up except you alternate bringing your legs in towards your chin.
Lay on your back, one knee bent, one leg straight in the air. Lift your bottom off the floor, keeping your leg straight. Increases glut max strength to help the drive through pedal
Step & Lunge
Start position, standing. Place one foot onto a high step and step up. Step down and lunge behind you. Builds gluts & hamstrings to drive the pedal down into a hip extended position.
Fluorescent clothing, ruck sack covers and lights help to prevent accidents when cycling in the dark. Sustaining an injury will only decrease your fitness!
Protect your head
Yes we had to include it. Regardless of where you sit on the helmet wearing debate, ask yourself whether you’d rather head butt concrete
with or without one on?
Use decent kit
Invest in a decent waterproof jacket, rain resistant leggings, waterproof shoe covers and a warm set of gloves – winter riding is much more inviting if you’re dressed
Invest in well fitting cycling clothing including appropriately padded shorts as greater comfort will improve your training tolerance.
Go off road
Training on varied terrains can improve your balance and bike handling skills, whilst adding variety to your training.
Get a bike buddy
Riding with someone else can both help motivation to cycle in the first place and to provide a pacer to increase your performance. Find a bike buddy at the BikeBUDi website.
Try to do a regular route a little quicker each time. As well as developing lung capacity a challenge can add interest to a monotonous ride, more so with a tracking
app like Strava.
Using a lower gear to increase the pedalling rate (cadence) can reduce stress on the knees, and other parts of the body, reducing the risk of over use injuries and increase cardio fitness.
Indoor cycling classes like Spinning® are a great way to get a vigorous workout, with varied routines and the energy of classmates and pumping tunes to hit that next level.
Before a high intensity ride warm up to prepare the body and muscles fibres for the hard work ahead. Pedal at a low resistance, high rate at about 75% effort
for 5 to 10 minutes.
Adequate amounts of rest is essential especially as you begin increasing your volume or intensity. Our bodies need time to repair and over doing
exercise can lead to injury.
If you’re brave enough then an ice bath post ride may help to improve recovery by constricting the blood vessels and decreasing metabolic activity.
Use an HR monitor
Monitor your heart rate to be sure when you are really going hard and just taking it easy. It’s important to ensure that you do enough steady miles before
you start laying down
If being cooped up in a fitness studio with a bunch of sweaty strangers isn’t really your thing use your bike on a trainer in the comfort of your own
home and make your own workout.
Use an old bike
If you’re used to using a light-weight, performance bike, occasionally use an older, heavier bike – you’ll soon be taking your newer bike further with less effort.
Try to pick 2-3 sessions per week (or whatever you can do) and stick to it. You will build fitness quicker if you apply a steady consistent load over a sensible period of time.
To ensure you can be riding again the next day consume 60-80g carbohydrate rich food or a milkshake to help your muscles recover.
Listen to your body
If you feel pain after a ride give yourself adequate time to recover and reduce the intensity of the next ride. Persistent over use can lead
to long term problems.
Sure we can all read how to do things but the ones who achieve are the ones who actually go and do it. So stop reading this and
GO DO IT!
All fitness tips have been compiled by Chartered Physiotherapists and curated by Victoria Howard (née Frosdick).
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