If you're like most cyclists you have a day job that requires you to sit and work at a desk.
The bike is a great way to stay fit, but unfortunately, riding a bike has some similarities to sitting at a desk. It's important to recognize these similarities and their demands on our bodies. Doing so will allow us to avoid injuries on and off the bike and improve performance on the bike!
The first way that cycling is like sitting at a desk is that it causes your hip flexors to shorten (tighten). In the cycling position the hip flexors never get fully lengthened, which is similar sitting in a chair. In the best-case scenario, we probably sit 6 hours a day, which would be 30 hours a week, not including the weekend. Now consider the time you spend on the bike every week. Maybe that’s 3 - 5 hours, or maybe that's 8 - 12 hours. Now factor both your time at the desk and your time in the saddle... your hip flexors can be in the shortened position for well over 40 hours a week!
Thankfully, there are plenty of stretches and mobilizations we can do to address this! Here is one of my favorite moves: The Wall Stretch.
The second way that cycling mirrors working at a desk is that it requires your spine to bend forward. This is particularly true in the thoracic spine (or the mid back). Try as we might to sit up straight in our chairs, at some point our back muscles will fatigue and we will start slouching. This slouched posture can cause a lot of harm to the ligaments and muscles in the spine. While on the bike, the thoracic spine can be put under a similar load, especially if you ride in the drops. If either of these positions describes you, try this next mobilization! I do 10 reps of this exercise before every ride and I feel that I am able to hold a more aggressive position with less discomfort.
The last way that cycling mirrors work at a desk is that it can create excessive upper cervical extension (bending in the upper neck). While working at a computer our heads tend to migrate in front of our shoulders. To compensate for this, we have to extend the upper regions of the neck in order to keep our eyes forward on the screen. This causes the muscles of the upper neck to get very tight and is usually the reason people get tension headaches. A similar process can happen on the bike, especially if you ride in an aggressive position. Generally, the lower your shoulders are on the bike (the more aggressive you are) the more upper cervical extension you'll need to keep your eyes on the road. Try this soft tissue release if you are getting tension headaches, or neck pain on and off the bike.
Let us know if you have any questions on these exercises!
If you are having pain on or off the bike, our professional bike fit and physiotherapy services may be perfect for you!