Previously, MarathonMTB.com spoke to leading Physiotherapist Blair Martin, who runs The Body Mechanic in Sydney, Australia about why it is that amateur cyclists injure themselves. Martin discussed the reasons that many amateur cyclists may find injuries returning, and the minor but consistent changes that should be made to remove or alleviate these problems. The discussion continued, as Martin sees three main areas that are placed under stress due to the working lifestyles that many amateur cyclists maintain.
“The neck and shoulders, lower back and knees are the most common areas of undue load, wear and tear, trauma and stress. Again, it is a case of taking it back to what we do all day every day. The body is negatively adapting to sustained postures. Modern lifestyle means we do tap away on computers more than we ever have in the past.” It is a pretty obvious problem when it is put to you. Is what you do for fifty hours a week causing you a problem, or what you do for ten hours?
“When you introduce your body to a bike, it is those parts that are placed under stress. If you are sitting on your deep gluteals all day, you are going to stop engaging them. You will be tightening your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles – which means you will have an upright pelvis on the bike. The reach to the front end of the bike is significantly greater, hence the neck and shoulder issues. The upright posture puts your lower back under load. The muscles you use to stabilise pretty much feed into your knees, so they gain stress and load.” If you have noticed that you are slowly increasing the height of your bars, or shortening the reach of your bike via a shorter stem (or worse, sliding your saddle forward), then Martin has probably just pointed out the problem you are trying to work around, as opposed to solving.
“Any injury is going to be a combination of a bunch of different variables or factors, it’s like a recipe. So we want to go in and take all those ingredients out. So we improve the biomechanics, try to address the lifestyle issues, make sure the bike fit is as good as it can be, and then talk to the person about the best way to gradually increase their training load to allow the best adaptation. This is far better than an overload/recouperation pattern”
Clearly, preparation for your sport in general, but also specific events, needs to be longterm and progressive. However, injuries can flare up, and if you are traveling to pursue your sport, a niggling injury can set you back. Or in a Mountain Bike Stage Race, your ability to manage your recovery every day is paramount to your success (or even completion) of the event.
“There are a range of tools that you don’t necessarily need to pack up and take away with you. If you simply get a towel on the ground and do some post race stretching as part of your recovery, it will help. It is important that you don’t introduce anything new. The occasional athlete will often implement a vigorous stretching regime if they see everyone else doing it. But if they haven’t done it before, and their body is already in one piece, maybe they shouldn’t start then.”
Like so many things in life, recovery may not be about what you can do for yourself, but what others can do for you. “Often, there is massage offered at these events, but it needs to be something you are used to. Especially if you are experiencing a lot of weariness or aches and pains in areas that you don’t necessarily want to be hammered out by the massage therapist. If massage is part of your routine, that’s super.”
One of the easiest, cheapest, and refreshing methods of recovery may have as much to do with the local environment and geology. “Anytime you do a pedal stroke you are causing a tiny micro trauma to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint surfaces. That trauma is going to cause an inflammatory process. If there is a fast flowing, cold river close by – or the ocean, or somewhere you can dip your legs to reduce the inflammation, then that often works a treat.” So be it a town fountain in a TransAlp finish town, a vineyards river at the ABSA Cape Epic, or the Pacific Ocean after the return to Apollo Bay after the Kona Odyssey – get the legs in to speed your recovery.
Managing the work and sporting mix in your lifestyle is clearly advantageous to avoiding injury. Additionally, post event recovery, as well as post stage recovery, is crucial. In our next instalment from Blair Martin, we will go over achieving the ultimate Marathon Mountain Biking fit on your bike – sitting on the knife edge between efficiency and confidence.