Cycling for Sport, Life, Fun

Cycling for sport and fitness

Written by Stephanie Heinatz

[dropcap]Whether you’re dusting your bicycle off after a winter of storage or gearing up to set your personal best in the next 100-mile road race, become more efficient in the saddle by considering these pre-season precautions. [/dropcap]

Get fitted. 

Jim Miller, cyclist, physical therapist and the clinical director at Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Laburnum location in Richmond, says he often hears cyclists say that they are uncomfortable on their bicycles. He advises getting fitted at the beginning of cycling season this month.

“You shouldn’t be uncomfortable because of the position of your bike,” he says. “Any discomfort should come from exertion.”

Miller recommends that riders who spend more than two hours on a bike on a single ride should be properly fitted. Riders who cycle for 30 to 45 minutes in one sitting, and who experience neck or back pain, should also consider a professional bike fit. Physical therapists fit athletes to their bicycles from a biomechanical perspective. 

“We take into account balances and imbalances in strength and flexibility and position you on your bike that way,” Miller says. “How long are your legs? How long is your torso? How far can you reach your arms? It’s very personalized. We do a head to toe strength and flexibility screen to see how people will be able to support themselves, and propel themselves, on the bike.”

You might have the leg length to set your seat at a certain place, but if you don’t have the hamstring flexibility to accommodate that height, it could lead to back pain. 

Keep your body fit for your bike. 

Just as Miller takes strength and flexibility into account when fitting clients to their bikes, personal and sports performance trainer Ruth Middleton reminds all cyclists that “it is key to have strong glutes and hamstrings, good hip stability and a
strong core.”

Enter the rear foot elevated split squat. 

Middleton, who trains athletes from all sports and adults who ride as part of their fitness regimen, calls it the best exercise to engage all three of those areas. 

To do the exercise, stand in front of a bench, place one leg behind you on top of the bench. Perform the squat movement and bring the back knee almost all the way to the ground (1). When it gets easier, add weight. Repeat for eight reps on each side. 

“Because cyclists sit for extended periods of time with their hips and spine in a flexed position, it is critical to warm up with exercises that extend the spine and stretch the hip flexors, as well as activate those glutes and hamstrings,” she says. 

Before getting on your bike for a ride, consider stretching with the elbow-to-instep exercise. 

Begin in a push-up position with your hands and shoulders in a straight line (2). Step your right foot forward next to your hand, and then reach your right elbow down toward your ankle. The back leg should remain straight and your torso in a straight-line position. Hold the stretch for two to three seconds and then return to push-up position. Repeat for eight reps on each side. 

 Beyond bike fitness:  Training for sport 

Some cyclists ride as part of their fitness regimen and an active lifestyle while others train  for sport, competing against themselves and others in area road races. 

“Get outside and ride,” Karen Kovacs a physical therapist, USAT Level 1 Coach and clinical director of Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Gloucester Point location, tells riders. 

“You have to get used to the wind, maintaining control on your bike with unexpected conditions—like holes in the road and gravel—and reaching for your water bottle.”

Don’t just go on long rides, Kovacs, says. Do intervals, one-legged drills, ride uphill and practice going downhill.

Most of all, Kovacs says, don’t just ride to log miles. 

“Ride with a purpose and you’ll get stronger, faster.”


Participate in a local ride this season!  

May 11

Capital to Capital 
Pedal through 400 years of history as you roll from Williamsburg to Richmond, Va.

May 17

Bike to Work Day! 

May 17, 18, 19 

Tour de Chesapeake
Looking for a great, flat, family friendly course? Head to Mathews, Va., for their annual ride, known for their great community ride support.

June 1-2

MS 150 along the Eastern Shore
Enjoy a two-day bike from Virginia’s ocean coast to the Chesapeake Bay as you raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. 

June 9

Jamestown Grand Fondo 2013
Offering 30-, 62- and 100-mile rides