By Heather Seagraves
As passionate cyclists and athletes all year round there is no doubt we are constantly demanding our bodies to the fullest. However, something magical seems to happen as summer nudges to an end and the jitters of #crossiscoming begins. Somehow there is always just a little more fuel to add to the fire.
I’ve experienced first-hand and seen time and time again the biggest spoiler of a great cyclocross season: injury. Unfortunately, as humans (and especially ones out there racing on two wheels) accidents happen. Rubber side down is obviously ideal but if you’re an athlete of any kind, you know we can only plan so much for our races.
In this week’s blog I’d like to share some preventative maintenance measures as well as a general guide to injury management and healing for cyclists. I hope, at the very least, you may take some of the offerings here and add them to your well of knowledge race after race and season after season.
So what defines an injury? An injury is a change in tissue (eg. bone, muscle, fascia, ligaments, tendons, bursa, skin) that challenges, restricts, or immobilizes functional range of motion and strength. Injury is often accompanied with pain and inflammation and comes in varying degrees and forms. An injury can variegate from a scratch, to a bruise, or as extreme as a broken bone or torn ligament / tendon. Some of the most common debilitating injuries happen from overuse, repetitive stress, weakness, or trauma. These pathologies extend from sprains (inflammation or tear in ligaments which connect bone to bone), strains (inflammation or tear in muscles), bursitis, and tendonitis to name a few. Unfortunately, in cycling, we can see them all.
Athletes, both amateur and professional, often share a drive to “keep going” to become better at their craft. “Pushing through” (healthy pain) is something we as cyclists learn to do to create speed, strength, and endurance. When injury strikes, however, it is of the utmost importance that we are able to discern different types of pain, manage our healing, seek professional medical / therapeutic attention, and set realistic, intelligent goals for rebuilding what has been damaged.
What should I do if I become injured? Upon immediate injury or notice, one of the best things you can do is stop. Pause. Protect the area and R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, elevate - above the heart if possible). Here’s the hard truth. While many of you may chuckle and think this recipe is “a given”, a large percentage of amateur athletes ignore the suggestion.
After RICE what do I do? For minor injuries with residual pain or dysfunction after the acute phase (approximately 3-7 days), if one hasn’t already, an athlete should seek professional medical or alternative health attention. No two injuries are alike and can cross the spectrum from mild to severe which call for different remedies. There are many forms of wellness that can be used to aid the body in healing; however, the best answer if you aren’t sure what’s needed is always to ask your Doctor. Fill your Rolodex. Find a great orthopedist, physical therapist, massage therapist, functional manual therapist, acupuncturist, movement educator and coach / trainer whom you can call upon in these situations. Don’t guess! Phone an informed friend.
How can I prepare and strengthen my body through the healing process to help prevent future injuries? What’s next? You’re on the road to recovery (pun completely intended) and you want to be a better cyclist.
Firstly, get a proper bike fit. If you are at even an amateur level of racing and committed to your CrossResults, you owe it to yourself to ride a machine that makes your body happy! In Brooklyn our friends over at ACME Bicycle Co. have all the bells and whistles to get you perfect dialed in. In Philly, roll over to our home base shop Bicycle Therapy. They’ll be sure to get you set up on the best geometry for you. Do research in your area and find a specialist with reputable experience.
In addition to having a bike that works best for your body, you should have a body that works best for you too! Create a cross-training plan that gets you off the bike. Get strong and flexible. Move and strengthen your body in all directions and in all the planes. While track and road riding can be somewhat predictable, cyclocross racing is almost never. Lift weights, kettlebells, yoga, Kinstretch, Pilates, dance, run, move your body off the bike and elevate your fitness while you pedal.
Last but not least, SELF-CARE. Don't forget to rest. Take a day off from training, meditate, get a massage, go to restorative yoga, change your perspective. We can not truly take care of ourselves (let alone excel at racing) if we don't take care of our whole body. Mental clarity, focus, and the ability to relax is often more valuable than power.
At the end of the day, we race cyclocross to challenge ourselves, to find our grit and resilience, to push our boundaries of comfort, and have a little fun! The community of cyclocross is one like no other and the support for everyone to ride smooth and accomplish personal goals is exceptional. So get out there and crush it! Take care of your body and ride like the wind.
Heather Seagraves SOMATICS
yoga | movement | bodywork | birth
Heather is a mother, partner, cyclist, and movement educator. She has been teaching movement for 20 years and working in New York City as an independent dance artist, massage therapist, and 500hr certified yoga and anatomy teacher for over a decade. Heather holds a BFA in Dance from FSU with a concentration on Performance, Movement Conditioning, and Kinesiology. She is also a birth doula and a Senior Teacher and Trainer with YogaWorks. Heather teaches weekly yoga / movement and conditioning classes in NYC. With a background in structural bodywork and massage therapy, working with injuries and using biomechanics to inform her teaching are areas of keen concentration.