- Al Painter, BA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES
CYCLISTS: NEED SPEED? THESE 3 THINGS MAY HELP
I've been working with endurance athletes since 2006, and there has been one constant that has held true for the last 11 years. When they are pain, it is pretty common for them to train more.
It makes perfect sense if you think about it, or at least to those of us who ride a bike. Trust me, I've done this more times than I can count.
Tell me if some of this may sound familiar to you. You may even know someone whose said these things a time or two???
"I haven't ridden in 15 minutes OH. MY. GOD!! I'M LOSING FITNESS!!"
"OFF DAY?? HOW DARE YOU (I'm totally unfriending this person)!! I had ONE in 1998. Was I injured? Yeah, quadruple knee replacement, something about lost glute function. Whatever that is."
SIDE NOTE TIME OUT
Yes, I am fully aware humans only have two knees. However, it very nicely gets the point across of what it takes to keep someone off their bike.
"Wait, a 104 fever, means I can skip my warmup, right?"
"Does it hurt? Only when I blink, inhale or exhale. I should totally be ok to ride, right?"
Those four statements may seem a bit silly, but if you know someone who is a bit "serious" about riding, they aren't really that far fetched. Endurance athletes are too good at having a high pain tolerance and are just plain horrible at resting.
Unless their body "volunteers" them to slow down because of an illness or injury, they usually don't. When you break it down, its amazes me people get more than six months of riding in a year and here's why.
“Benefits” of Cycling
There are many positives about riding a bike. Being out in nature, spending time with family and friends, GOING FASTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE THAT YOU KNOW!!!! I mean, improving your cardiovascular health.
However, there are a few downsides that don't get much press you need to be aware of.
You ride after sitting all day = remember, you sit when you ride, frying pan, meet fire
You may lose flexibility/mobility = a machine is dictating the way you move (especially if you're clipped in)
You might shut down the glutes = do this, and you may eventually not be doing much of anything else
You create muscle imbalances = shut some muscles down, others take over/get tighter
WHO WANTS TO GO FOR A RIDE!
Don't Ride The Injury Cycle
If something hurts when you ride (raging infernos in your legs uphill don't count), well, don't ride. Get it checked and find out why. No, don't ride to your appointment. I shouldn't have to explain that one to you.
If you don't have structural/tissue damage that needs to be repaired, and you don't need a round of precautionary physical therapy, get off your bike and into the gym. Once you do, focus on the following three things.
1) Building Strong Glutes
These muscles are the powerhouse for the lower body. Want to ride faster? Get your hips stronger, here's why (1):
They accelerate the hips when you sprint or charge uphill out of the saddle.
They protect the pelvis and lumbar spine to give you your pedaling foundation.
Do you want happy hinges (knees)? Make your glutes angry in your strength workouts!
When you lose glute strength you are more susceptible to (2):
Low back pain
Altered joint angles (including over pronation)
Potential sciatic nerve issues
Reduced power output
Want to rack up some frequent flyer miles off the front of a group ride? Build a stronger backside. See what I did there?
2) Spread Your Wings to Fly
Work on firing your lats out of the saddle (climbing or sprinting) and under load uphill . These muscles are the key to connecting your core to your hips if you need some serious quick burst giddyup while riding. They are involved with movement/force production in the arms, scapulae (shoulder blades), spine, shoulders and pelvis (3).
I've personally experienced improved mid back mobility (this is a huge factor to not being hunched over in the saddle), climbing power and neck mobility from improved lat strength. Not too mention grip strength improvements from suspension trainer pulls/rows.
3) Master Monotony: AKA Dial In Your Fundamental Movements.
If you ride a bike, this should be familiar. Cyclists are generally good with doing the same thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again when they ride.
Take that approach into the gym and perfect the way you carry loads (walking planks), squat, hinge, push, pull and resist rotational forces. This is how we've moved since the beginning, it is how we are designed to move now and my guess is this is how we will move in the future (4).
I'd also recommend you do 4-6 weeks of straight bodyweight training. Want to find out where you may be leaking power on the bike? As I've recently learned, calisthenics/bodyweight training will show you, quickly.
Bodyweight training not only reveals performance gaps, but it can fill them in as well. Plus, who doesn't want to be able to do pullups?
With the right approach off the bike, you might just get faster, become more efficient and have a little more fun in the saddle. Thanks for reading, as always, it is much appreciated!
1) "3 Reasons to Care About Your Butt That Have Nothing to Do With Looks ," Aaron Layman
2) “NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training,” Michael A. Clark, Scott C. Lucett
3) "Use Your Lats to Build More Muscle," Matt Schifferle
4) "INTERVENTION," Dan John