Hindustan Times Cafe, Mumbai,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Gym

Page  12

Tips for safe bicycling

Marjie Gilliam

Biking is a fun 'green' way to get into great shape. Moreover, it's cost effective and keeps your heart healthy. For a person weighing 63 kg, an hour of light intensity biking (16 to 20 kph)) burns about 380 calories, at a moderate speed (20 to 22 kph) about 500 calories, and at a high intensity (22 to 25 kph) about 635 calories.


Safety and proper bike fit is important. The American Physical Therapy Association has some good tips on how to cycle well:


* Proper body positioning : At the bottom of each pedal stroke, the knee should be slightly bent and the hips should not rock back and forth while pedalling. Hand position should be changed frequently for greater upper-body comfort.


* Right seat (saddle) level : You shouldn't feel as if you are sliding forward or backward as you ride, which can create needless stress on the arms and back.


* Right position of the handle bars : This is determined b the rider's height, strength, coordination and functional goals. Higher handlebars place more weight on the saddle. Generally speaking, taller riders should have lower handlebars is relation to the height of the saddle. Handlebars that are too far forward could cause back strain.


* Stretch before you begin : The hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes generate the majority of pedalling force when cycling. Tight muscles leave you more vulnerable to strains, so to maintain flexibility, regular stretching exercises are recommended. Stability and balance exercises help with coordination of cycling - related skills such as breaking and cornering. Poor posture and weak muscles can lead to problems, so if you are unaccustomed to physical activity, don't attempt to do too much too soon.


Poor bike fit causes problems


* Pain in the front part of the knee : Biking with a saddle that is too low, pedalling at a low speed, overusing the quadriceps (upper front thigh) muscles and / or having muscle imbalances, such as strong quadriceps and weak hamstrings causes knee pain.


* Neck pain : Improper handlebar positioning or a saddle that is too high or low can create neck pain. The handlebar might be too low, require too great a stretch to reach, or be at too short a reach. A saddle with excessive downward tilt can also create neck pain.

* Lower back pain : Tight hamstrings (back of the upper thigh), low cadence, using the quadriceps muscles too much when pedalling, poor back strength, and too - long or too - low handlebar positioning.

* Hamstring tendonitis: Overuse of the hamstrings when biking can produce inflammation. Symptoms include swelling and tenderness, pain when attempting to bend the knee against resistance and stiffness after exercise. Other possible causes of hamstring tendonitis are inflexible and / or weak hamstrings, a saddle that is too high, or misaligned bicycle cleat.

* Hand numbness or pain : Short - reach handlebars, poorly placed brake levers and a downward tilt of the saddle are possible causes. Maintain a safe grip but avoid over gripping as you are riding.

Foot numbness or pain : Causes may be overuse of the quadriceps muscles in pedalling, low cadence, faulty foot mechanics and misaligned bicycle cleats on the shoe sole.

Iliotibial band tendonitis : This condition causes a sharp, burning pain on the lateral (outside) of the knee, and may be felt in the hip as well. Muscle weaknesses, inflexibility, and / or overuse, saddle that is too high differences in leg length, and misaligned bicycle cleat for those who use clipless pedals are all possible causes.


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