How I solved pain and learnt a few things along the way!
By Dr Bruce Duncan, Osteopath.
My previous bike experience consisted of riding to high school. I reached my peak when I cycled in a couple of Great Victorian Bike Rides whilst at university studying Osteopathy. I found out you could save half of the entry fee by volunteering to massage on the event 2-3 hours a day. Cycling 100km a day followed by massaging other riders – all to save a couple of hundred bucks – I must have been mad!
Cycling dropped away for my tennis – a good club career that continues to this day. I also had stints running (a real battler), 10 years of karate and more time at the gym than I dare to recall.
About 3 years ago my mate Shane suggested I look after his BMC road bike. He was to be in Italy for a year and knew he would buy a bike over there.
I hesitated because I knew what was involved – it’s not just getting a bike right? It’s the shoes, kit, helmet, lights… the list goes on. And on…
What sold the idea was an email from Shane, mentioning that the Giro d’Italia was coming right by his home town of Biella in the Italian Alps, and why don’t we ride along for a few stages?
With 3 young boys a good mortgage, my immediate thought was – ‘Yeah, right!’ I jokingly showed the email to my lovely wife Louise – in her view it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
My go-to training ride was local, safe and hilly – the famous Kew Boulevard. I started training in earnest. Too earnest as it turns out. My right knee suddenly started hurting.
Lesson 1 – Don’t increase your training volume too soon, too fast.
Being an Osteopath at North Carlton Osteopathy, I had colleagues that could help me – but I knew better. I tried to self –diagnose, self- treat, and tinker with my bike.
Lesson 2 – It’s OK to ask for help.
My right knee pain was still coming on about 30 mins into a ride. I tried the usual adjustments – increased my cadence, selected a higher gear for less resistance, adjusted my seat height up (less loading on my knees)… all had marginal benefit.
I relented and got checked out by one of my colleagues (plumbers and their pipes right?).
He determined that whilst I had tenderness around my knee where the pain was, it wasn’t just a ‘local’ issue. Like all good Osteopaths, he looked at the whole picture.
Through testing he determined that my quadriceps were overworking to compensate for my glute that was relatively underworking.
My lower back and pelvic mechanics were not perfect either. Treatment would help with that.
He also had a look at me on my bike.
Unbeknownst to me – my right heel was rotated out quite significantly compared to my left. Interestingly this is the exact opposite to the natural way I stand and squat – my right heel is naturally turned in a little compared to my left.
Lesson 3 – Getting the right help is pure gold.
Three or four treatments and the right shoe adjustments meant no more knee pain!
My colleague also gave me a few exercises to switch on my lazy glute and we discussed switching it on whilst on the bike.
I also tackled climbs in the Dandenongs, Kinglake and Mt Macedon… culminating in ascending the extremely steep Mount Baw Baw. (See The Climbing Cyclist guide here)
I was ready for (my version of) the Giro!
Needless to say, we had the riding time of our lives – the highlight being a climb up the famed French mountain Col du Galibier – a 2645m mountain pass. (See the Climb-by-Bike guide here)
We cycled parts of 4 stages of the Giro – the experience really cemented the cycling bug for me.
The whole time I was grateful for the help I received, being able to complete the trip in no pain. The rides where even more enjoyable with a good bank of training under my belt.
I have continued to enjoy my riding adventures – not least by meeting some terrific people along the way. I still go to The Spin Room, and I ‘ride out’ every week. If you see me in my ‘North Carlton Osteopathy’ custom kit, please say hello as you ride past me!
At the finish line— Col du Galibier, Stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia 2013
SUMMARY – MY KEY LESSONS
- Don’t increase your training volume too soon, too fast. Statistically THE most important injury prevention lesson. A good guide is no more than a 10% volume increase per week.
- It’s OK to ask for help. Getting set up correctly right from the start, whether that be your bike, your equipment or your body, will advantage you immensely.
- Getting the right help is pure gold. Dr Google is one thing… an experienced professional is another. You have spent thousands on a bike.. its ok to spend on yourself.
- Interval sessions fast-track your fitness. Not only for the time-poor athlete. So many options – repeats of a hill, sprint/recover on an open road, the stationary trainer or a spin class.
For a Strength Training Program specific for cyclists, we can send you the PDF – free.
Dr Bruce Duncan
Bruce is the Principal Osteopath and Director of North Carlton Osteopathy. He is Osteopath for the Hawthorn Football Club in the AFL, and for the last 15 years, Osteopath for the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. He has taught undergraduates at University and lectured to colleagues nationally.
Outside of Osteopathy his interests include tennis, cycling and strength training. His current preoccupation however, involves family life with his wife Louise and their boys, Thomas, Patrick and Oliver.
To follow Bruce Duncan on Strava click here
Dr Matt Stacey
Matt is a senior Osteopath at North Carlton Osteopathy. After stints competing in triathlons and distance running, Matt has honed his skills as a cyclist. He competes in local Criteruim events and recently raced in the Tour of Bright and the Tour of Mansfield.
He takes a keen interest in managing athletes of all persuasions, but has a particular soft-spot for fellow cyclists!
To follow Matt Stacey on Strava click here.