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Cross Training For Runners
Don't Let Cycling Increase Your Risk of Injury

from AmericanRunning.org

Cross-training can help you avoid overuse injury from running, and cycling (indoor or out) is an excellent way to cross-train. But cycling can add to injury woes if you aren't careful.

Some studies show as many as 50% to 70% of bicyclists reporting neck and back pain. Long rides can cause hand numbness and aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome.

Knee pain is a risk due to high compressive forces at the patellofemoral joint. Although most bicycle injuries are the result of trauma, bike misfit misery can cause a host of problems and proper fit can significantly reduce the incidence of pain and muscle tension.

Check pedals and cleats. Pedals that secure the feet can be a hazard even though they are important for optimum performance. If you use pedal cleats, make sure you have the best system for you; there are several types to choose from. Cleats that aren't set up right can throw off tracking in the ankles, knees, and hips. When pedal straps are too tight, you can get numb feet, or worse, not be able to bail out safely in a bike fall.

Seat height too low. Anterior knee pain (pain in the front of the knee) is usually the result of riding on a saddle set too low. Forcing greater knee flexion, there is increased stress on the back of the patella. Sometimes riders think lowering the seat will help with saddle-soreness, but choosing a gel seat or padded shorts is a better choice.

Seat height too high. This, of course, makes saddle-soreness worse and is generally uncomfortable, causing you to wobble from side to side. Even subtle distortions can add up to misery over a long ride. Overextending your legs with each pedal stroke can result in Achilles tendinitis, hamstrings problems and pain in the back of the knee, especially if your feet are fixed in cleats. Back and hip problems, as well as prostatitis can also result from having your seat too high.

Seat too far forward. Front to back seat position determines your knee position over the pedals. In an overly forward position the pelvis is distorted and there is excess strain in the low back. This is havoc for the crotch and buttocks as well.

Seat too far back. This also causes over-reaching for the pedals risking hamstring problems, low back pain, and Achilles tendinitis.

Handlebars too low. This causes excess weight bearing for your hands, arms, and shoulders causing tingling and numbness in your hands and shoulder pain. Having your handlebars high enough is especially important if you have a history of back or neck problems or you have weak or inflexible back muscles.

Handlebars too high. Handlebars that are too high can cause you to sit up too straight, causing too much downward pressure on the pedals rather than pedaling with a circular motion.

Inappropriate shoes. Bicycle shoes are stiff for a good reason. Overly soft (normal running or street shoes) can cause arch pain and plantar fasciitis (the last thing you need from your cross-training venue).

If you have any doubts, consult a professional at a topnotch cycle shop to check out your bike fit.

(Parts of this article were adapted from IDEA, The Health and Fitness Association, press release, April 2001.

Vol. 19, No. 10, Running & FitNews
© Copyright, The American Running Association.

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