By Master Physical Therapist and Cycling Expert and Mentor, Ron Berry, PT
What’s Holding You Back?
There are often very exciting things before us that we want to do, and things that we know we would enjoy doing, but apprehension stalls the gumption. Sometimes a little fear of failure forces the freeze; and other times, a lack of confidence holds us back from participating in our own Bucket List. If you are not quite sure why you hesitate, we’ll help you figure that out and conquer it, because we don’t want you to regret giving it a shot for Project Hero*!
For the past few weeks we’ve been inviting subscribers to join us for The Santa Barbara 100 cycling event. And, several people have expressed interest, signed up, and even asked us for help to prepare. It looks like it’s going to be a fun event for several of us from the PHASE IV community! But, there are probably several others that are considering signing up for the 34 mile ride around Santa Barbara, or the 62 mile ride in the foothills around Santa Barbara, or the 62 miler with the extra 3000 feet of climbing called the Gibraltar Challenge, or even considering the full 100 miler with the Gibraltar Challenge, and just haven’t clicked on that “submit registration” yet, let’s help you figure out why.
If you’re not confident that the longest ride with the biggest climb will go well because you aren’t fit enough, then aim to participate in the 34 miler, or, if not the full century then aim for the metric century. A month out is still enough time to figure out how to build up fitness. Most importantly, you have enough time to know what heart rate and pace to ride at to allow yourself to finish a challenging ride that might be near the upper end of your capabilities.
Understanding your aerobic threshold and keeping the intensity in the right zone can allow you to go much longer than you might think you are capable of. And, in a month’s time you can get out and train your body to ride in that zone. A VO2 analysis at PHASE IV can help you understand your specific aerobic threshold, and the heart rate zone that maximizes your aerobic capacity. And, if during the event you get feeling low on energy and need to refuel, don’t forget there will be 4 support stations along the way that will resemble picnic buffets.
The majority of us aren’t ready to jump in because we fear aggravating an injury. As a physical therapist I can appreciate that. But, again, if there is a problem then let’s put some energy into finding out why the problem exists for you, and solve it.
As far as potential injuries regarding cycling, there are a few common maladies:
- The area around the patella, the knee cap, becomes painful. Pain above the patella on the outside can often erupt from pushing too hard too fast. This can often be irritable with walking down stairs or declines. The origin of the pain is where the quad attaches to the patella. It is best improved by stretching the quad several times a day. Self massage using a massage stick or your knuckles can expedite healing. And, if anywhere around the patella is sore the mantra should be spin to win, meaning, keep the cadence high and the gears easy to spin.
- Another area that often gets sore is around the sides of the ankle, or the Achilles tendon. Whether it’s on the outside or in the back by the Achilles tendon, the position of the foot on the pedal is critical. Moving the cleat back on the shoe a smidgen, that’s a tiny bit, can be invaluable. Again, the key to recovery is stretching. Doing a calf stretch with the knee bent especially addresses the structures around the back of the ankle.
- Neck pain can derail a cycling hobby. Being bent forward at the waist and looking forward and frequently turning your head around is tough on a neck, especially wearing the extra weight of a helmet. Consciously lowering your chin and looking up will give you the same big picture you need to ride safely. Also lowering and relaxing your shoulder blades intermittently and trying to breath a little more from your belly can be remarkably helpful. If the joints stay stiff after a ride there are some amazing self mobilization techniques that can be done from the physical therapist’s collection of techniques; in particular, “Mulligan towel mobilization which is much better learned from a physical therapist than from You Tube.
- One sided hip pain is another common cycling affliction. When a problem is on one side it is usually due to an asymmetry in the body. So many of us have a slight leg length difference that puts more stress on a particular part of the body. The outside of the hip is especially vulnerable. The tricky part is determining where the asymmetry comes from and how to address it. Self mobilization exercises or having a PT clinician do some skilled techniques to facilitate symmetry can rectify the alignment. But, sometimes, putting a lift under the cleat or putting a very small orthotic device in the shoe can have remarkable effects. In the short term you can get the inflammation calmed down by icing it and a having a few days of active rest; more importantly, if the problem is addressed in the long term by strengthening the side to side muscles, the hip abductors and abductors, the problem will be solved. Cyclists, along with most people have strongest muscles in the front, but not sufficient strength in the back and rarely in the inner thigh and gluteals. Our PHASE IV exercise physiologists can assist you with a prescription exercise program that addresses building strength for cycling. Ask for the Forster Structure Program©.
The Forster Structure Program© is a 3 part progressive strength and flexibility exercise program, and when delivered by PHASE IV, that sequence begins with a full body assessment from a physical therapist followed by a personalized exercise regimen that you do on your own for a few weeks followed by a second exercise program that builds on the first.
With the maladies discussed here, there are treatment methods that all involve a combination of exercise, icing, muscle and/or joint treatment, and active rest. But, with cycling injuries, a huge impact can be made with a Bike Fit.
Many people set up their position on a road bike to emphasize aerodynamics and how to maximize power output, but instead put themselves into a position which actually could lead to discomfort and more soreness. There are subtle changes that can make a big difference, such as, seat position, cleat position, angle of the brake hoods. And, there are some changes that might be a bit more significant like changing the stem that attaches to your handlebars. These variables can all impact the level of comfort when riding, and will prevent injury. There are many people who do quality bike fits. Often they are done by people who are mechanics or simply avid cyclists, but having a Bike Fit with a physical therapist with 35 years of experience, and who has been trained in bike fitting, and, also has ridden thousands of miles is especially valuable, this is what we offer at PHASE IV.
There are many reasons why people who are intrigued by joining us for The Santa Barbara 100 haven’t decided to sign up for the event. But, if there is a minor injury holding you back, please, take advantage of the free injury assessments we are offering. Call Forster Physical Therapy at 310-656-8600 to schedule.
If you are concerned about not having enough time to train, then, ask for help about how to maximize the efficiency of your training with help from our exercise physiologists. If you’re just not comfortable on your bike, consider a Bike Fit.
Whether it’s the Santa Barbara 100 Cycling event or any other event you are thinking you would like to do but are not quite sure if you are able to do or not – together, we can figure out what’s holding you back. We’ll help create an inspiring and goal driven solution. Go for it, enjoy the challenge of getting there, participate! We’re here to make that happen for you! 310-582-8212
*Ride Santa Barbara 100 is affiliated with Project Hero, a groundbreaking national non-profit organization dedicated to helping Veterans and First Responders affected by PTSD, TBI and injury achieve rehabilitation, recovery, and resilience in their daily lives and increasing awareness of the national mental health crisis posed by PTSD and TBI. For information, visit www.weareprojecthero.org.
Read more from Ron Berry, PT here