According to The Outdoor Foundation, the second most popular outdoor activity in America is cycling, with nearly 2.5 billion bicycle outings taken by Americans age 6 and older in 2011. Although the wide spectrum of health benefits associated with cycling outweigh the risks by 20 to 1, injuries are common among avid cyclists and recreational riders alike. Although not all injuries can be avoided, you can prevent a variety of common cycling injuries by understanding the risks, stretching, an active warm up, and an easy cool down to ensure a full recovery.
Overuse injuries are most common in cycling and generally occur in the body parts and joints that are constantly in motion while riding. These include feet, knees, and hips. Body parts that remain stiff and ridged during a long ride can cause recurring pain, chiefly the neck and lower back. Pay close attention to the sensations in your body while riding and allow enough time to rest and fully recover after each ride. If you feel sustained pain in a joint or muscle and a period of rest does not relieve it, contact your physician.
Stretching is the most important part of injury prevention for cyclists because of both the repetitive motion and sustained body placement involved. Cycling causes muscles in the legs to shorten and tighten as they move but do not reach full extension or flexion. In addition the upper body muscles stiffen and tighten while maintaining a bent and flexed position. It is important to stretch while your body is warm and hold each stretch for 30 to 45 seconds. For a detailed list of recommended cycling stretches and yoga poses we recommend this article, “Best Stretches for Cyclists” from bicycling.com.
A thorough warm up is incredibly important in injury prevention because it prepares your body for the stresses of cycling. A good warm up elevates your heart rate and respiratory rate, warms and stretches the muscles and joints, and transports necessary oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Your warm-up should last around five to ten minutes, result in a light sweat. At the end of your warm up, make sure to stretch out your muscles for a full range of motion during your ride.
Cooling down after a ride is often overlooked, but is just as important because it helps your body begin the recovery process. Your muscles and ligaments sustain minor tears and damage while cycling and waste products can build up in the body causing muscle and joint soreness. Slowly lower your heart rate and respiratory rate, and actively stretch the major muscles you used during a five to ten minute cool down.
Accidents and injuries aren’t always avoidable, but there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent common injuries associated with cycling. Listen to your body, stretch your muscles and take the extra time to warm up and cool down. Your body and your bike will thank you.
To stay hydrated on your ride we recommend our Polar Bottle 24oz sports bottle: