Cycling presents a freedom that is not easily comparable in other sports. Leaning into the crisp air as you swiftly peddle forward, it can be easy to lose yourself in the speed and pleasure of conquering the open road. When you simply cruise along for the sheer joy of it, you may neglect to even watch the miles click by on your odometer. However, if you have a set goal in mind then this carefree cruising may be replaced by a determination to cover more pavement in less time. As with any activity, there is risk for injury. While training, it may be best to approach your plan with the tried and tested habits of professional cyclists. For your best chance at an injury-free training period, try these tips.
5 Cycle Training Tips to Avoid Injury Like a Pro-Athlete
- Check your equipment. If you haven’t previously done so, it may be best to fit your bike with a professional’s guidance. If you have a local cycling shop in your area, ask the pro to watch you ride as they may recommend and make adjustments as needed. Injuries can crop up simply from riding a bike that doesn’t fit your build properly. Pay attention to how it feels as your rides increase and if anything creeps up that feels off, try making slight adjustments to handlebar or seat positions until it feels right. Knowing how to adjust your tire pressure is also important. As a female rider, I hesitated in bearing the responsibility for my bike’s maintenance as I don’t consider myself mechanically inclined. I would rely on professional bike inspections before and during my treks. While this is a great resource, a rider should be able to gauge their tire pressure on the go with an on-bike tire pump when riding solo. High tire pressure may affect your bike’s performance on turning motions and changes in traction, so it can be best to perform regular checks of your equipment. Georgia Gould of the Luna Pro Team recommends trying different levels of tire pressure to feel what works best for you personally.
- Focus on form. Proper form on your bike should allow for an elongated torso reaching away from the hips which rest comfortably over the seat, with neck in line with the spine. Making a conscious effort to keep the shoulders down and drawn back with the chest lifted will help prevent slouching which can come with fatigue. It can be best to maintain a light grasp on the grips to avoid wrist pain or hand cramps. Whether you use baskets or clip-in cycling cleats, it is best to focus on a smooth rotation, pulling up with your legs and pushing down with your feet. Toe and foot cramps are not uncommon, so from time to time wiggle your toes to keep them awake. Improper form while riding long distances may lead to muscle strain, spasms, or overuse injuries.
- Properly fuel up. Storage bags on bikes or specific cycling clothing can be extremely beneficial to storing food and water for your ride. It may be best to drink a full glass of water before you embark, but also to have a bottle or two in place on your bike. Supplementing the water with electrolyte tabs is also an option, especially on long rides or hot days. If you prefer to keep your hands on the grips at all times while riding, a hydration backpack designed for cycling may be a helpful alternative as you can sip through the port kept in place on the shoulder strap en route. Just like your water intake, it may be better to fuel up before and during your ride. Vicki Thomas of the 2010 Canadian National Cyclocross Team recommends getting at least 200 calories per hour of training and bringing along snacks that you like. If energy gels aren’t for you, pack something you will enjoy while you either take a break or cruise along. Inadequate nutrition and hydration while riding may put you at risk for decreased energy and performance, fatigue, dehydration, muscle cramps and other serious health issues.
- Add cross-training. It can be easy to stay hyperfocused on the sport you’re training for and limit yourself to day after day of cycling, but you may be neglecting some areas that could benefit your conditioning. Consider having recovery days scheduled into your training plan to help allow your body time to rejuvenate. Depending on your level of fitness and comfort, these days off from cycling could be utilized as cross-training days. Incorporating a regular yoga flow routine may improve overall flexibility, focus and strength, while also aiding the recovery process. Mountain biking Olympian Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski uses yoga to increase his strength. In addition, a consistent strength-training routine, separate from yoga, may also be beneficial. Simple body weight exercises may help cyclists strengthen the muscular support system that is accessed while riding. Consider adding plank holds, push-ups, lunges, squats and burpees to cross-training days.
- Focus on safety. Cycling may not be known for its fashion, as tight padded shorts with neon tops don’t necessarily exude runway style when paired with a toe-up cleat waddle, but it can be best to embrace the gear for what it is designed for. Visibility should be at the forefront of your wardrobe planning, so you shouldn’t hesitate to don bright neon gear with reflective detailing. A bike light and reflector may also allow for drivers to spot you as you cruise along. Denise Ramsden of Optum Pro Cycling recommends that you always assume that you are invisible. Checking over your shoulder at the last second before maneuvering out of your path can be the best way to avoid an unexpected collision, whether it is with a vehicle or another rider. Always wearing a helmet should go without saying, but the importance of this cannot be emphasized enough. Having a cell phone on your ride can keep you connected to a help source if needed, so it is best to find safe, non-distracting storage for your phone. SportPort’s Zephyr Bra-Tank has a secure phone storage pocket that offers patented technology that may help prevent exposure to the potentially harmful EMF radiation from your cell phone. It may be best to know your training course and focus on staying present in the moment to reduce your risk of an accident that could lead to serious injury.
Training as a cyclist for your next cyclist event is best done with a plan in place, but not a rigid one. Allow yourself the freedom to listen to your body and adjust your plan in accordance. Better to make it to the goal then be too injured to get there. Completion of the end goal is not your only accomplishment here, the experience of successful training is in itself a process to be proud of.