Indoor cycling is becoming more popular than ever. Cycling bikes come with an array of benefits that help you work up a sweat without even going anywhere. However, they also come with the risk of some injuries. But fear not, we have solutions to common indoor cycling injuries, so you can keep on pedaling without the pain.
Common Indoor Cycling Injuries
Tanya Weeks, managing director and master trainer at Vicious Cycle and Vicious Ed, says, “Indoor cycling is a cardio program that builds both strength and fitness with very little impact to your joints, so it’s a program that almost anyone can do.” However, as Aaptiv trainer and certified holistic health coach Kelly Chase explains, “With any movement one does repetitively, it can cause injury or for the body part to become ‘worn.’ That’s why it’s a good idea to cross-train, so the muscles/bones are being used differently.”
Here are some indoor cycling injuries to look out for—and solutions to avoid them in the future.
Indoor cycling can be quite taxing on the knees, especially if you are sitting incorrectly on the bike. You may also find that your knee hurts more after you’ve pedaled for a long period of time. This type of knee pain is so common that it was even given its own name—cyclist’s knee, or the more scientific term, patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
To prevent this, Chase says, “[The] rider needs to have a 30-degree bend in their knee on the downstroke.” This is when the pedal is at the bottom. “[The] seat should be about hip level when rider stands next to it.” Your knee should also be aligned with the center of the pedal in this position.
Cycle for a shorter time or, if you are in a class, lower the resistance setting. Add knee-strengthening exercises to your training to also help alleviate the pain.
Back and Shoulder Pain
Common indoor cycling injuries include back pain and related shoulder injuries caused by bad posture. A common mistake people make is hunching over the handles too far forward and tensing their shoulders.
Refrain from moving around too much from side to side or up and down—this can strain your back muscles. Instead, tighten those core muscles to keep your back straight. It is easy to lose that perfect posture once you start getting into the workout, but give yourself mental notes to continuously check your form throughout the session.
If your core muscle strength is also weak, then try to improve it to help with your back pain.
“Also, be aware of the more modern ‘dancy’ indoor cycling classes, as form is very important,” Chase says. “If you try to do a move without having good form, you can most certainly injure yourself.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them at all. Weeks explains, “Correct bike fit and technique corrections from the instructor generally avoid most injuries from rhythm riding.” Be sure to get a good instructor who can correct your posture as needed, so you can prevent this from happening.
Wrist pain is another one of those pesky common indoor cycling injuries. If you are prone to wrist strains, then make sure to keep them straight when holding the handles. Try not to bend them too often or lean forward as much because this can aggravate the pain.
If you are putting too much pressure on your wrists, then you are not executing the proper form. Chase says, “[There should only be a] slight bend in the elbows … extending arms out toward handlebars.” You should really feel it in your legs and core as opposed to your upper body.
Yes, even your feet can be affected by poor form. Metatarsalgia, or hot-foot syndrome as it is more commonly called, is a frequent injury affecting cyclists. If you have experienced numbness or tingling in the toes, then you may have it.
To prevent this and alleviate the pain, check your shoe size. Are they too small? This may be contributing to your discomfort. Make sure you are wearing the correct size. (What a great excuse to go shoe shopping!) Another cause can be having the pedal straps too tight across your feet. You want to make sure that your feet are secure, even while pedaling, but not so much that they cause you pain.
If you’ve ever sat on a bike, or any seat for that matter, for prolonged periods of time, then you know that you may get a sore bottom. This soreness can be exacerbated when cycling due to friction and sweating.
Make sure that your saddle is at the right height to prevent chafing. If it’s too high, then that can increase the risk of saddle sores. Invest in a good pair of padded cycling shorts and a gel seat cover to make your ride much more comfortable.
This is particularly evident in cycling classes that incorporate a full-body workout to the music. Weeks says, “Most people tend to want to try to coordinate everything from the start and ride like the advanced riders. … We see lots of people riding too fast or too slow and quite uncontrolled in the moves.”
It can be hard to cycle and move to the beat at the same time. So don’t rush it. “It takes time to sync the body to the beat and learn all the combinations,” Weeks explains. Rather than jumping all in and trying to do everything, start slowly. This is especially important if you are a beginner. “We promote building a base first with the feet to the beat, and then working up to the arm moves and combinations. Once you have the rhythm, then add the moves,” Weeks recommends.
Always pay attention to form and technique.
Weeks adds that if you set up the bike properly and have proper form, then “riders riding correctly will strengthen their whole body, not wear them down.” This helps prevent some of these common indoor cycling injuries.
If you are still unsure about the proper form, ask for help. Trainers around the gym or your spin instructor will be more than happy to show you the way. But if you’re by yourself, Chase recommends heading online for guidance. “There are Youtube videos and images on the internet that can help you with this,” she says.