Pain can sometimes be a good thing, as it calls our attention to something -- perhaps subtle -- that is responsible for our pain, that we might otherwise not have noticed. Here are some common physical complaints amongst cyclists, and what they often mean. If you experience any pain during my classes, flag me over *immediately* - by the way.
NECK & SHOULDERS
* Soreness - Are you leaning on the handlebars? Don't. Especially when the core is weak, we lean forward and make the upper body work wayyyyy too hard. Cycling is about your legs and your core - not the upper body! ARE YOU SHRUGGING YOUR SHOULDERS? I did for years, until the pain got so bad that I *had* to pay attention. Think: "shoulders ROLLED BACK and down, elbows point downwards towards the floor."
* Lower back pain while riding - Are you arching your lower back, especially in Hand Position 3? Don't. (Ride beside a mirror to check yourself... or flag me over to come look!) Also might be your hamstrings just being especially tight, or even weak. The hamstrings attach at the lower back, so often lower back pain is not the back at all -- it's the hamstrings!
* Stiffness/soreness - Lack of counterbalancing training. Our proper cycling posture assumes a constant state of flexion, hinged forward at the hip and rounding the back out to lean over the handlebars -- so it's important to also incorporate balancing, counteracting movements (like backbends, which stretch/elongate the hip flexors and quads, too!)
* Pain on inner side of knee - often indicative of foot misalignment. Make sure your heel is straight, not jutting out to the side
* Pain/burning on your outer side of knee - usually the IT band (strip of fibers from your hip all the way down the side of the thigh to the knee). Means it's tight and unhappy with our current stretching regimen.
* Pain behind the knee - Saddle may be too high or too far back, puts pressure on the tendons/ligaments behind the knees
* Pain in front of the knee - Saddle may be too low or too far forward, puts pressure on the knees
* Pain - often indicative of foot misalignment. If you ride clipped in, *check your cleat alignment* -- cleats shift over time! Pain on one side of your calf usually corresponds to the cleat being crooked, with the cleat being higher on the side of the calf that has pain.
If you ride in sneakers, check your overall foot alignment -
* Numbness - nerve compression, often indicative of your shoes being too soft. Cycling shoes with rigid soles should hopefully address this!
* Pain in front of ankle -often you are inadvertently riding with your toes pointed down. Think: "heel down, scrape the foot straight backwards"
* Arch pain - you are riding with your foot too far forward in the pedal cages. Think: "ball of the foot over the center of the pedal." The balls of your feet can support your body weight; your arches cannot.
Hips, thighs, knees, ankles should be in perfect alignment -- all directly forward. Any deviation from this, and you run the risk of muscle imbalances. Any part that juts out to the side (due to chronic tightness, injury... or just plain ignoring my cues! Heh.) is *not* working as hard, and imbalances (and injury) are directly on the road ahead...
Let me know if you have any questions! Email me at email@example.com
*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study
12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.