As you plan your approach to the coming season, no doubt you’ve thrown the book at your quest to train better (and smarter) and race faster.
You’ve figured out how to more effectively periodize your training, you’ve vowed to train your sprint (and even determined when and how you’ll do it), maybe you’ve even picked up a Sufferfest DVD to get you through the winter.
But what about that twinge in your knee, or that ache you feel in your lower back as you scale nine-percent climbs, or that soreness in your Achilles tendon after Sunday’s “epic” ride? Left unchecked in January, any one of these seemingly small trouble signs can creep up on you in March to end the season you’ve worked so hard to make your own.
You can’t prevent some injuries, such as those suffered in a crash, but you can take steps to help your body handle all of those early training miles, making it less prone to on-the-bike injuries later in the year.
VeloNews spoke with experts in coaching and sports medicine about what you as a rider can do in the early season to reduce your risk of common overuse injuries later in the year.
1. Get a professional bike fit
In a sport based on such a highly repetitive action — pedaling — the first line of defense against injury is a proper bike fit.
“That is the biggest thing,” said Frank Overton, founder and head coach of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colorado. “A good bike fit ensures you’re in the proper position that’s biomechanically not going to cause you any overuse injuries.”
Overton pointed to knee, Achilles tendon, back and neck pains as just some of the common discomforts associated with improper bike fit. Many riders are most prone to overuse injuries during the transition from winter to spring, as the weather improves and six-hour training weeks spent indoors swell to 12 hours or more on the road. Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) experienced this firsthand in 2011, seeing minor knee inflammation grow into a case of tendinitis that had him out of top racing form for much of his neo-pro season.
“It may feel ok for a week or two, but over time those little micro-tears in that Achilles, or if your saddle’s too low, it doesn’t hurt the first or second time that you ride it, but after a while your knee will start talking back to you,” said Overton.
“The biggest thing is to look for a fitter that has multiple years of experience, has seen the inside of an anatomy textbook, and then probably also has fitting experience with the discipline of cycling you’re training in or competing in,” Overton said, recommending a fitter who “has extensive experience with a good eye, and has access to the fitting technology available.”