Prehab: the secret to staying injury free
by Carla Lodewijks for Cycling Weekly 14th May 2018
Investing some time into prehab exercise could help you stay injury-free and perform better on the bike – so why aren’t more of us doing it?
Niggling aches and pains that ruin your ride, or even worse, pain that prevents you pedalling, is something every cyclist wants to avoid. We spoke to Carla Lodewijks, a physiotherapist with Six Physio to understand why investing time in prehab can help you.
“Rehabilitation from injury is exercise aiming to correct a problem that has already given dysfunction, or pain. Prehabilitation is preventative exercise to optimise function and help to prevent injury”, explains Lodewijks.
Investing some time into prehab exercises could help you ride in more comfort and perform better, but few of us have enough time to ride our bikes as it is, “if you were a professional cyclist and working to peak for specific events, then your prehab would change throughout the year and you’d be doing a lot of it. As an amateur who has to fit in prehab around other lifestyle factors a reasonable amount of prehab exercise would be 20-30 minutes, two to three times per week.” Not a huge amount of time to keep yourself cycling pain free.
Dedicated sportive riders can often skimp on prehab due to time factors, “it is tricky” says Lodewijks, “any free time you have you want to focus on riding your bike which can mean sleep, recovery and time for prehab suffers,” and these are all additional risk factors for getting injured.
Additionally, amateur riders can develop poor posture in their daily lives which can translate into poor posture on the bike, “long hours at a desk or commuting by car or train can cause poor posture and our upper body to slump,” explains Lodewijks, “this means that when on the bike you may not be able to actually get into the correct cycling posture or don’t have the endurance strength to hold the correct position which results in either slumping into the saddle, or putting too much weight into hands and wrists.”
There are generalised prehab exercises that target the most common areas of discomfort endurance cyclists experience but the best exercises are those that target your individual body and your goals. “Everyone is different”, says Carla, “if you do general prehab exercises you will probably do quite well, but if you have had significant injury or have challenging goals for your cycling, you need something more specific.”
If you imagine what it would be like to be unable to ride your bike due to injury or discomfort, the time and investment into prehab suddenly seems worthwhile. Plus, prehab can also improve your cycling performance.
“At Six physio we work holistically to understand your body and lifestyle as a whole, your body’s structure, life stressors and the cause and effect of any dysfunction,” Lodewijks elaborates, “we look at standing and sitting postures, your position on the bike both static and dynamic, spine and joint mobility, the strength, flexibility and endurance of your muscles and your control of movement. We assess your alignment on the bike and check your body’s ability to hold the correct posture. We look at the timing and recruitment of your muscles, to see if are they firing in the right pattern preventing overload in certain common injury areas.” From this very thorough investigation, an individualized prehab or rehab programme is put together.
It has to be remembered that bike fit and prehab go hand in hand, “you can still sit very badly on a bike that has been well-fitted to you” says Lodewijks “and prehab work can be cancelled out by poor bike fit.” Ideally you would work with both your body and bike together for optimal function. Six Physio have trained bike fitters who are also physios who can help get the right fit for you.
Comfort on the bike doesn’t just make your next sportive more enjoyable, it also helps you to perform better, “cyclists often don’t ‘practice’ for cycling, they just get out and ride their bikes” says Lodewijks, “and lack of preparation makes failure more likely. Prehab tries to optimise function and prevents your body from failing under the loads that cycling places on it.”
Prehab can help to train your muscles to have more endurance in the saddle, and to ensure that the timing and recruitment of your muscles is optimal, “Prehab looks at flexibility, length, strength, recruitment and endurance of your muscles. This can increase your power output, which will make you faster.” For a relatively small investment in time each week, an individualised programme of prehabilitation could help to not just reduce your chance of injury but also make you a faster, more powerful rider.
Fancy a go at some prehab exercises? Take a look at these videos online here from Six Physio.