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Sport Injury Prevention for Cyclists

Ideas compiled by Andy Haas, Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Fitness Trainer

Sports injuries that are common to cyclists have many causes, yet many are preventable. Keep in mind that muscular injury is not a matter of bad luck, or just a fact of life. Let's look at ways we can prevent such injuries from occurring:

Warming Up, Stretching and General Preparation

When we are busy, proper warm-ups before athletic activity are often overlooked. We tell ourselves that warming up is boring, or that up until now we rarely or never warm up and we don't seem to get injuries. Don't assume that you will be able to warm up during the ride.

Avoiding warming up is dangerous. Any time large muscle groups get cold, they shorten and tighten. A proper warm up can save you a lot of pain and down time due to injury. And once an injury occurs it is more likely to recur.

Long sport events like a multiple-day bike rides require a thorough warm-up in the morning, and after any break in the action like lunch, rest periods, and before starting the next few hours of riding.
Before the next day's ride, start with a 12-15 minute light jog just to get the blood moving. Then, move on to some dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching is controlled movement of a body part done slowly and taken through the full range of motion. It's really the best way to stretch before you start. The benefits include: reduced muscle stiffness, less viscous fluid in muscles (that translates to better movement), increased speed of contraction and relaxation of muscles, more efficient use of oxygen in muscles.

After a hard day's ride is the time for static stretching and cool down. The best way to do a static stretch is to gradually assume a stretched position and hold it for at least 20-30 seconds. The benefits include removal of waste products such as lactic acid, and less muscle soreness the next day.

Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Eating intelligently is very important preparation to intense physical activity. This can help prevent stomach cramps and nausea.

Eat a full nutritional breakfast before a race, but don't overeat. Go for plenty of carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels and fruit. During the day eat an energy bar or a banana for a little extra kick. Either of these ought to digest quite easily.

Your body converts the carbohydrates you eat into glycogen, which it uses to power your muscles for maximum performance. Your body will then have more energy to use as you ride.

It is very important to drink lots of water. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Check the color of your urine when you go to the bathroom to make sure that you're drinking enough. Clear or pale yellow urine indicates that you're well hydrated; dark urine means you may be dehydrated.

Caffeinated beverages such as soda, coffee and tea are to be avoided!


When an injury occurs, the body attempts to minimize the damage and begin repairing itself, which results in inflamed tissue. This is the immune system's response to an injury. Inflammation can interfere with healing, so treat the swelled area with ice. Ice treatments are also an effective way to reduce pain.

Proper Heart Rates

When exercising, it's a good idea to use a heart rate monitor and stay within your target heart rate (THR).

To calculate your THR take 220 minus your age. Take the total and work between 60-80 percent of that number.

Self-help/Self Massage

While I make a living as a Massage Therapist to others, I implement self-massage techniques to my own sore muscles and painful joints almost every day. I can't tell you how much it helps. Massage brings nourishing blood to strained muscles, takes away waste, and it's a great pain reducer.

I recommend using balms, liniments, and creams such as Ben Gay brand cream, Ice brand gel, or herbal liniments for a quick and easy way to reduce muscle soreness.

Fatigue and Heat Illness

Our bodies can generate a tremendous amount of internal heat. Vigorous exercise in hot and humid weather can help bring it on. We normally cool ourselves by sweating and radiating heat through the skin. If these mechanisms fail, heat cramps and heat exhaustion will not be far behind.

Heat cramps are severe cramps in the muscles of the legs or most any muscle group that take place after vigorous exercise in extreme heat. Relocating to a cool place, rest, and fluids are the treatment for this.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when a person in a hot climate has not been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms can include dehydration, irritability, fatigue, weakness, and clammy skin. Seek medical attention.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you become easily winded or suffer undue exhaustion where you did not before, stop and take it easy.

Sharp pain can be a stress fracture, if you touch the spot and can identify where it hurts, don't ignore it because it can lead to a complete break.
A fullness or tightness in your chest can be a very important signal ˆ there may be a heart attack in progress.

Above all, use common sense, proper warm-ups and stretching. Enjoy!

I answer questions via my website ( Click on "Ask Andy". I can also be reached on my cellphone (052) 373-3704.




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