Whether you’re just getting started with cycling and you want to get the best possible start, or you’ve been cycling for a while and you want to take your ride to the next level, there are a few things you can do to improve your performance and get your best ride.
A good ride depends not just on having the right equipment, but having equipment that fits you properly. An ill-fitting helmet can impair your vision and may not protect you, while a bicycle saddle that is too high, too low, too far back or forward, or cleats that are not properly positioned, can lead to injury from overstretching or by preventing certain muscle groups from engaging properly.
If you are unsure whether your equipment is setup properly, a sports chiropractor can help you adjust your bike and show you how to properly attach your cleats so you minimize your risk of injury and get the most out of your ride.
Cycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise and fantastic for lower body strength, but falls far short on upper body strength and flexibility. Though cycling focuses on lower body, you might be surprised at how important flexibility and core body strength can be. Good core strength provides a solid foundation from which your legs muscles can function more efficiently. Good flexibility in your hamstrings and calves can help you achieve a more aerodynamic posture in the saddle, and lend more power to your pedal strokes.
Unfortunately, while good core strength and flexibility are important in cycling, cycling doesn’t actually work your core and can cause your muscles to shorten over time, increasing your risk of injury and making recovery take longer. If cycling is your preferred workout routine, be sure to work on your core at least a couple of times a week and stretch after your muscles are warmed up.
Improving your ride is a matter of improving your efficiency, which can only be done by improving your technique. A properly adjusted bike, good core strength, and flexibility can help, but are only part of the equation.
Pedal smoothly – Keep your muscles engaged, through the full pedal stroke. Think of pushing down, scraping your shoe, pulling up, and kicking over, then put all of these motions together into a full circle. One leg pedaling drills can help with this. If you’re riding indoors, try resting one foot on a chair while you pedal with the other for about a minute, then ride normally for a couple of minutes before switching sides.
Good posture – Pay attention to how you’re sitting in the saddle. Keep your hips centered and don’t bounce or rock, and keep your knees from drifting outward as you pedal. Shift your hand position frequently so you aren’t riding in the same position for too long and develop back soreness.
Breathe and relax – Tense muscles impede range of motion and efficiency, wasting your effort. Breathe from your diaphragm and let tension melt away.
Drills – Interval training, sprints, and other drills have been shown to improve power, efficiency, and lung function.
Rest is absolutely critical to good cycling performance. Being well rested prior to your ride will help keep you from becoming fatigued too early in your ride. Rest is also critical to recovery and building your strength. Training breaks the muscles down, and it’s during recovery that they are rebuilt and actually become stronger. Sleep is vital to this part of the process, as it is during sleep that the body releases hormones that are critical to this process. Establish a good sleep schedule, allowing for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol consumption will help you get more good quality deep sleep, so you feel more rested and are able to recover more quickly.
Good nutrition is critical to ensure you have not just the fuel to complete your ride, but you also have the building blocks available for your recovery. Consuming about a gram to a gram and a half of carbohydrates for every kilogram of body weight about a half hour before a workout has been shown to improve the rate of glycogen re-synthesis, while a gram to a gram and a half of protein per kilogram of body weight per day can speed recovery and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to stay hydrated during your workout. Staying hydrated keeps your joints lubricated, helps you maintain your body temperature, and facilitates delivery of nutrients and fuel to the cells.
Call your Sydney Chiropractor at the NeuroBalance Chiropractic Clinic now on 02 9938 5456 (Brookvale) or 02 9420 1474 to find out how we can help you improve your cycling performance while reducing your risk of injury.