The importance of strength and conditioning for cyclists

Debunking myths

More time on the bike equals better performance? Chamois time is training time!

If this were the case I’d be World Tour from all my current cafe time…In most cases, this myth is simply not true. Quality over quantity. If you practice going slow all day, you’ll just get really good at going that one pace. Whilst base km’s definitely have a great purpose, most people will find that doing bulk km’s day in, day out at one pace will not get them racing fit.

If you’re someone like me, you love riding outdoors because it’s so beautiful. You love fresh air, sunshine and good people. Something that I have unfortunately never paid enough attention to is strength and conditioning. Whether that be at home, in the gym, at yoga or Pilates. Why? because it’s indoors. I have never been a fan of exercising indoors. Why would I spend my precious time inside when I could be outside racking up km’s?

Strength and conditioning

Despite my dislike of exercising indoors, I now regret not at least spending some time focusing on strength and conditioning (S&C). Working as a physio, I can see first hand the differences it makes to people’s performances! Just a small amount of time each day or a couple of classes a week, could see you win your next race solo by attacking over the top. You might even take out your mate on the local strava QOM.

Not only does it help with increased performance, it is very important for injury prevention. On a bike, our necks are under a fair bit of pressure to hold us up against gravity, our thoracic can be rather flexed, our rib cage is closed down and we are sitting on our glutes making it difficult for them to fire, and constantly shortening our hip flexors. If we do not open these areas up after each ride, this can lead to many injuries. A couple of common ones are ITB friction syndrome, patella-femoral joint syndrome, cervicogenic headaches and QL/Low back overload, particularly with climbing hills.

Personal Experience

As a junior triathlete, I was always almost injured or coming back from injury for running. I never had any issues with the cycling component and therefore took it for granted. That was until February last year. I realised that it was almost the end of Summer and I still didn’t felt fit, so I took it upon myself to do efforts on the trainer a few times per week. This included sustained TT efforts in a very flexed position. Coincidentally, most of my work as a physio is also in a slightly flexed position. This meant I was never spending any time reintroducing extension or rotation to my mid-spine (thoracic) and I didn’t realise I had lost so much range of movement until it became a HUGE problem, very quickly.

I sustained a pretty nasty injury to the left side of my thoracic where it joins onto my rib cage. It hurt to breathe, wash my hair, reach for anything overhead, rotate my spine, ride a bike, work and was always much worse in the morning and at it’s worst was waking me numerous times in the night. I’d have to plod to the kitchen, warm up the heat pack, take two nurofen and sit upright for a while. This is called wake in the night, for those with medical background, and the pain being worse in the morning is also consistent with a condition that is heavily inflammatory in nature. Basically I made my mid-back incredibly grumpy with me.

Wake up call

This took many treatments, a slow return to riding, a gradual reintroduction to movement in my mid-back and two rounds of  strong anti-inflammatories, to settle. I then worked with my good friend who is also a physio, Kat Carter. Together we improved my muscle’s activation patterns and introduced mobility work for my spine to take pressure off it and get it moving properly again. Doing these exercises helps me to maintain my riding and my work comfortably. Anytime I get lazy with my exercises, I am quickly reminded by my back (technically my brain) to do them. I also now complement these exercises by doing two sessions in the pilates gym each week to improve my strength and endurance.

Working on my balance, control and strength!

Quality time

I cannot recommend highly enough to everyone to take some time out of the day to spend on your body. Working on stretching your muscles, mobilising your spine and improving your muscle activation patterns. Then working on muscular control, strength and endurance, to maintain a healthy, happy body. I wish I had.

Blogs to follow

In the blog posts to follow, I will be introducing some great exercises for you all to get you started!

If you have any questions though or any current health conditions, please see a qualified health professional who can properly assess and guide you.

Please see my latest blog on La Ridley about safe approaches to increasing fitness: http://www.laridley.com/my-q-time/safe-approach-new-years-fitness-resolutions/

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • Jacqueline
    Hi Hannah, So glad to read your post to my men! I ride since 3 years and every years more kilometers. Last year i realized that i get more muscles but my body was no more flexible. I decided to follow some yoga course and now i continue to do some yoga 2 times a week at home. I'm sur that it will help me for my next race! I feel me better when doing these exercise!
    • mm
      Isabelle Beckers
      Good job Jacqueline! Keep up the good work!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.