With cycling fast gaining popularity as a form of sport and recreation in Singapore in recent years, it is common for cycling enthusiasts to participate in events such as the OCBC Cycle Singapore and even overseas cycling events in neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. However, embarking on a long-distance cycling event may be daunting, especially for beginner cyclists. Having the right preparation and training for such events is crucial to reduce the risk of injury and knowing how and what to eat before, during and after the ride is important as well.
In our email interview with the kind folks at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), we sought advice from two healthcare professionals, Dr Jason Chia, Head of Sports Medicine & Surgery Clinic & Ms Rachel Ling Yun, Dietitian, Dept of Nutrition and Dietetics who gave useful tips on how to make the best out of our cycling routines.
What are some common issues/injuries that long distance cyclists experience? Correspondingly, what kind of treatment or recovery steps do you recommend?
Dr Chia: I assume we are speaking of musculoskeletal issues. Back and neck ache are common complains amongst long distance cyclists. The cause of the pain varies and often is due to fatigue in the muscles in the lower back. Others may have underlying problems of their spine e.g. disc degeneration and the cycling is an aggravating factor. Hence there is no one size fits all solution either.
Progressive increase in training load allows the back muscles time to adapt to training and core strengthening helps to train the muscles that stabilise the lower spine. Symptomatically, stretches to the back and hamstring might help to relieve some of the soreness from riding and cyclists often strengthen the leg muscles which act in concert with the back muscles for propulsion. Other considerations include the fitting of the bike. Symptoms of the knee are also common including anterior knee pain and lateral knee pain due to iliotibial band friction syndrome.
What kind of advice would you give to a cyclist who is about to begin long distance cycling/training?
Dr Chia: Consider joining a riding group. Apart from the fun of riding in a group, there is also the factor of safety in numbers.
Bike fit is very important but very individual-specific. Allow time for adjustments to find the most comfortable fit.
Ease in to increase in riding distance as the body takes time to adapt to the increasing distance but also to sitting on a bike seat for long periods.
Always have a backup plan when riding alone: someone should know your route and when to expect you back.
Sun and eye protection (especially for those riding in the day) and helmets are important safety equipment as well.
It’s important what we eat before, during and after a long distance ride. Photo: comocyco.com