This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 146.
How can we stay fit and injury-free for cycling? Roxanne De Beaux asked her sports therapist, Craig Hardingham, for some tips to keep everyone pedalling.
‘The best thing to keep us conditioned for cycling is to be consistent with the activity. Little trips add up our weekly mileage and keep us going.’
Tell us about your background and qualifications
I’m Craig and I’m the owner of Injury Active Clinic. It’s a sports injury and wellbeing clinic based in Cambridge, where I’ve spent 23 of my 33 years. I grew up close to the city centre so riding my bike was always the best way to travel around. Even when I ventured out to Hertfordshire to study Sports Therapy for three years, cycling was my preferred way to get around.
What is the best thing to do to make sure our bodies are in good condition to keep on cycling into advanced years?
The great thing about cycling is that it is very low on impact which serves us very well as we age. Naturally the body will show degenerative changes the older we get and sometimes these can lead to problems. However, cycling is a great way to continue exercising. The best thing to keep us conditioned for this is to be consistent with the activity. Getting back into your daily commute to work after six months of no cycling can be tricky. Try and make good decisions. Instead of driving to the shops, can you use your bike? It’s these little trips that also add up our weekly mileage and keep us going.
What kind of injuries do you see that have been caused by or affect people’s ability to cycle?
Often, it’s cycling I prescribe to my clients who are injured. As mentioned before, it’s a low-impact exercise which can keep people exercising whilst an injury heals. However, we can’t always get away with cycling. A lot of knee injuries stop people cycling because of the nature of the activity. The power to move the bike is driven predominantly through the hips and the knees. If we can’t load the knee then cycling can be tricky.
What should we do to prevent injury?
I could provide a lot of answers here. Good sleep, resistance training, low stress, track your training load etc. But it’s all on an individual basis. For the average person cycling to and from work: be consistent. This can help with avoiding spikes in load. It’s the spikes in load that can cause our most common problem: tendon pain.
What exercises do you recommend to keep us in good shape for cycling?
As cycling is predominantly lower limb, it makes sense to get stronger in our legs and increasing the soft tissue’s ability to tolerate load. Lunges (see picture) would be a great exercise with a fantastic carry-over to squatting. Building up from body weight lunges to weighted lunges would probably improve your muscular endurance and resilience so you can cycle faster, for longer and with less chance of injury.
Any other tips for a long, happy and comfortable life of cycling?
Have your bike set-up checked. It’s important to make sure this is correct to help avoid injury too. Finally as mentioned above, I always recommend strength training. This improves soft tissue health, increases bone density and makes you more resilient.