Training & Nutrition

How To: Safeguard Yourself Against Cycling Injuries at Home

We spoke to osteopath and ex-pro Alice Monger-Godfrey

The perfect person to treat your cycling ailments is someone who understands your body, and the demands of your sport – and Alice Monger-Godfrey ticks both boxes. The osteopath who recently set up her clinic in Surrey raced road and track at a World level before retiring to study at the British School of Osteopathy for four years.

Alice specialises in Osteopathy, Acupuncture and Sports Massage and has treated many of our idols – including the World Champion Road Racer Lizzie Armitstead. We caught up with her to pick her brain about cycling injuries, their causes and prevention.

Alice pre race in her British Cycling kit before she embarked upon her second career in osteopathy

What kinds of problems do you see cyclists suffering with the most?

The most common injuries I see in cyclists are neck, knee and low back pain. These issues can often be worse in cyclists who sit at a desk all day at work – this places similar postural demands on the body as the cycling position does.

Both cycling and desk work reduce the movement in the mid-back area and can accentuate the hunched forward posture and rounded shoulders. This places more load on the low back and hip area and both cycling and sitting at a desk increase the pressure on these structures. Long hours looking at a computer screen and keeping your head and neck in a fixed position on the bike can lead to similar neck issues.

However, problems with sitting on the saddle are becoming more and more common especially amongst women.

Get your desk set up correctly to avoid hunching

Are there any small things we can do at home to help address these problems?

Your best bet is to keep moving – the body doesn’t respond well to stasis. Keep hydrated and try to get plenty of sleep as that is when the discal structures in the low back get their nutrition and the body recovers most efficiently.

Stretching the big muscle groups helps to maintain flexibility thought the body reducing the risk of injury. Pilates and yoga classes are very good as long as you take each session at your own pace and don’t push your body too hard at first – this is when we see many problems from a person’s first yoga or pilates class!

Foam rolling is a brilliant home treatment; it’s cost effective and can be done in front of the television.

Read more about how to use a foam roller here

Are there any specific stretches you’d recommend keen cyclists do every day? Especially as they start to ramp up training in lead up to summer?

The main stretches I would recommend for any cyclist would be to focus on Hamstrings, calf muscles, hip flexors and quadriceps, and low back muscles especially Quadratus Lumborum.

If you do get very tight in the shoulders and neck I would do some mobility and flexibility stretches focused on these areas.

The Quadratus Lumborum muscles are in the mid to lower back, between the top of the glutes and bottom of the rib cage

Do you recommend cyclists build up strength in the gym with weighted exercises, like squats and deadlifts? Or should we just be focusing on getting strong on the bike?

I am a very old school cyclist that just used to build up my muscles and strength by riding harder and completing more miles on the bike. If you are focusing on sprinting or track riding then yes I would do strength work in the gym under a coach or professional who can help with technique and choosing which exercises to do.

I am a big fan of using your own body weight to build up strength. Looking back if I could have done one thing differently in my training I would have focused more on my core strength as knowing what I do now, the core is fundamental to preventing low back pain and to providing more power and strength on the bike.

4 Simple Gym Ball Exercises for a Stronger Core

Core strength shouldn’t be forgotten

How important is proper bike fit in preventing injury? 

Very important – it’s almost imperative to have a proper bike fit. I only use Velo Atilier for my bike fitting services as they know exactly what works for me. If you are increasing your mileage and riding a position that doesn’t suit you not only is it uncomfortable and can lead to further problems and injuries but it can hinder performance and power. Make sure your body is fully functioning on and off the bike and you can reach your optimum potential.

Alice treats everyone from world class athletes to the very youngest of babies at her clinics, based in Surrey and Wimbledon. Read more about what’s available and the benefits of osteopathy here. 

Read more about bike fitting and injury prevention: 

4 Reasons for Getting a Bike Fit

How to Get the Most from a Bike Fit

5 Ways to Speed up Recovery from Cycling Injuries

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