Fit Friday – Early Season Aches and Pains
Spring is here, and it’s time to dust off the bike and get out there. Unless you spent some time on the trainer over this winter, spring rides can be accompanied with aches and pains as a result of riding more miles for longer periods of time than your body is adjusted to. Being comfortable last season does not insure you will be this season. Some aches and pains can be attributed to conditioning or lack thereof, but they could also be potentially more serious. Listen to your body, and if aches and pains don’t clear up quickly make sure to get them checked out. One big challenge for riders in Minnesota and Wisconsin is avoiding the urge to overdo it on the first nice day in spring, especially after a long winter. If you haven’t ridden in a while it’s a good idea to start easy, building gradually to longer and harder rides. This gives your body time to adapt, and can help to prevent injuries.
Here’s a short list of common cycling related issues we frequently see in the early season, and some possible fixes.
Saddle Sores: Make sure your saddle and shorts are in good shape, you may also want to use chamois cream, which reduces chaffing. If all three of these are good, then saddle sores are generally attributable to two things:
- Ramping up mileage or time in the saddle quickly without giving your body time to adapt.
- Sitting asymmetrically on the saddle; while this one’s hard to self diagnose, watching both of your knees relationship to the top tube can give you an idea if this is possibly an issue.
Foot Pain: we’ve covered this one at length here, but remember if you haven’t been riding much over the winter it could just take some time to get your feet used to the specific pressures of cycling.
Knee Pain: To break this one down a bit further, these are a couple of general guidelines; always make small adjustments, try it out to see what you think, and if in doubt always seek professional advice.
- Pain in Front of Knee: Your saddle may be too low, try raising it a little bit, also make sure that you are not pushing too hard, or mashing the pedals.
- Pain in Back of Knee: Your saddle may be too high, try lowering it a little bit. Tight hamstrings can also be a factor.
- A good rule of thumb is if it’s below 60 degrees F, keep your knees covered; exposing the ligaments and tendons around your knees to the cold can cause tendonitis.
Hand Pain: Also including numb hands: While there are a number of factors there are three things to check first.
- If you are fairly flexible, try lowering the handlebar, and possibly lengthening the reach
- If you are not very flexible try raising your handlebar
- Keep your elbows bent, this will help absorb shock in your hands as well as your neck and shoulders.
Padded tape and gloves are great, but if any of the above items are off, padding alone won’t help.
Back Pain: There are many factors that can lead to back pain, but if your bike has been comfortable here are a couple tips to consider.
- By maintaining good posture on your bike you can help reduce stress on your back.
- Core strength can help to stabilize your body while pedaling and reduce back muscle fatigue.
It’s easy to get excited about great spring conditions and head out for too long, too far, or at to high of an intensity. Take your time, listen to your body and enjoy the opportunity to once again put rubber to the road. There will be plenty of time to do more as the season goes on, and taking steps in the early season to prevent injury will ensure you have the best season possible. Now get out and ride!