First of all, I want to congratulate Chris Froome on winning the Tour de France! He rode a fantastic race, showing his true colors through the arduous mountain climbs and astonishing everyone through some of the toughest time trials the Tour has ever seen.
Just because the Tour is over, however, doesn’t mean biking season has ended. Biking can be a great way to get out and exercise through the fall, but it can also cause serious back pain if one doesn’t ride properly. I would like to provide some tips to help prevent unnecessary injury.
Believe it or not, back issues from cycling can be related to an individual’s body and/or mechanical discrepancies in the construction of the bike itself. The single most important lesson in this is that the fit of the bike has to be tailored for your body. For starters, many cyclists ride bikes that are too big for them. If you find yourself sitting up too high, you will then have to compensate by leaning forward to reach the handlebars, shifters and brakes. On the other hand, if your bike is too compact, you may over-arch yourself and cause tension in your spinal ligaments. Just like in the popular spin classes that have recently been a huge trend for fitness enthusiasts, your bike needs to fit YOU.
The second most important factor for preventing back pain is core strength. This does not only involve your abs and visible back muscles, but a connection of hundreds of muscles that all work together to help support stability. Workout programs like yoga and Pilates can be very useful for developing these muscles, which otherwise might go unworked, and increase flexibility, thus helping to protect your spine.
Additionally, and I feel this almost goes without saying; always remember to stretch, though never before you start your workout. If your muscles aren’t loosened up, you run a greater risk of straining them while stretching. Get in a good 10-15 minute warm-up, then stretch, and always follow up your workout with a stretching session too.
In the end it comes down to taking the time to ensure you are doing things properly. Keep yourself active when you aren’t on your bike to prepare for when you are. If you’re in the market for a new bike, or unsure of the one you currently ride, take the time to go through a proper fitting. You will notice the difference on your first ride.