Over here at Lexi Miller HQ, we're all about bucking the trend not just because...but because we see wisdom in another way. You know, like designing a jersey without a zipper, or designing shorts to sit on your hips, not your shoulders.
Recently, we chatted with Dara of DaraSports PT who questions the conventional wisdom behind more-is-more when it comes to miles logged on the bike. Want to get faster and stronger on the bike? It might just start with getting off the bike...
I've had this idea for a blog post about strength training ideas for cyclists. Your recent Instagram post inspired that, because cyclists are so one track minded, and get so obsessed with the sport. It’s great to do what you love, but it can have adverse effects if that's all you do to 24/7, right?
Especially that whole weak posterior chain, and then people have bad posture and blah, blah, blah.
Right, right, totally.
So, tell me a little more about yourself, how you got into cycling, how you became a physical therapist, and how the two work together...
Well, I was a gym rat at UCLA. I was an aerobic instructor and all that jazz. Then, I got into triathlon actually, because my boyfriend at the time got me a bike and I had no clue how to ride it. I felt really intimidated by all the roadies. The triathlon community was very welcoming. I got into triathlon, and I loved it. Then, I was still doing my personal training and all that stuff. Then I got way more into being outside and riding on the road. Eventually, kind of got really into road racing because a lot of my friends kind of ventured out of triathlon. I got burnt out from all the long, long, long races.
Then, I wanted to go back to school, so I went to Florida for a master's program in exercise science. Then, I was like, I don't know what I'm going to do with this so I went to PT school. Then, after that, I was still into bike racing and did that for quite awhile in L.A. Then, eventually back into Bay Area, I got into more mountain bike racing and mountain biking. Then, got into coaching the high school mountain biking team. That's where I am now.
I'm totally interested in the whole world of cycling, and I treat a lot of cyclists. I treat everybody, but that's definitely one of my passions obviously.
I feel like a lot of triathletes do what you did. They start doing triathlon, and then they ditch the running and they ditch swimming. Then, they just realize that the bike is the best part.
Yeah, I mean it's also so time consuming. I was so all in: run, swim, bike, everything. It was so much work. There's no way in my life I really could maintain that.
So, when you're treating cyclists, what are the most common chronic issues that you see? What could they/we do to prevent those things?
I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with being hyper focused on your sport and nothing else. Almost like a detriment of actually doing well. If all you do is one thing, you're not a well rounded person. Also, physically, there's only so much you can ride to get stronger. I think a lot of cyclists now are starting to realize, hey, I am actually way faster if I do other stuff besides being on the bike. Well, not just doing intervals on the bike or riding 100 miles.
I think it's similar to triathlon in that it does attract a very driven personality type and somewhat obsessive or like type A personalities. I think a lot of them are such over achievers that they think more is better. They might even be coming from another sport where they got injured, and cycling was their second sport. Now they're all in again. They get back into that whole all in 110% committed. It's just not sustainable. I think it either leads to burn out where people just quit racing, or they get injured, and then everything just falls apart. It could just be one thing.
Usually they're the ones who end up with a lot of chronic issues, because they're either not resting enough, or not doing core stability work. They're not doing anything besides just sitting all day, and then they sit on the bike. They've just really become poor at moving. It's not even like they need to do a whole gym program. They're just not moving enough.
You need to walk. Go for a walk. Just do anything else. Just don't sit. Just don't sit all day, and then sit more on your bike.
What are the most common things you're seeing. Low back dysfunction?
Low back. Yeah. A lot of spine issues. Not like serious spine issues, but a lot of just neck and back. I do see a lot of hip issues, which to me is always correlated to the back. Then, a lot of times I'll see a lot of neck and shoulder issues. Again, these can still be related to the back. Everything to me comes back to the spine and the core. Everything else is an appendage off of that. A foot numbness or foot tingling. Hamstring strain or knees. It's the bigger picture. It doesn't even matter what they're coming in for. It's the person as a whole. You just need to move more or do something different. Pilates or some other strengthening class, or some other gym workout, or some other cross training type activity.
I could look and try to look at the numbers. Honestly, I get everything. It's so many different injuries. Sometimes knees, sometimes foot/ankle, but it's a lot of hip, back and neck. That is pretty common.
I'm assuming that you have told a serious cyclist a time or two, “Hey, if you wanna get better, and also get faster and stronger, don't ride your bike as much.” I'm dying to know what the reaction has been.
You know, my last post basically just put everybody on blast, some people that I even know. It was like, "Hey, you can ride 100 miles if you want, but it's probably doing you a disservice." I literally said that. I'm not really afraid of telling people that, because I'm okay if they don't like what I'm saying, or don't like me for saying it. All I care about is ultimately at the end of the day that they're not injured and they're doing well. They don't have to take my advice. People ignore me all the time.
I feel like I'm not telling people what to do. I just try to keep it super to the point. I mean, I'm kind of a to the point person. I feel like when I am really blunt about it, people get it.
Whether they do it or not, I don't know. Most of my patients and the high school kids do it. I feel like most of them kind of get it now. It's not as much of a crazy idea anymore. All those famous athletes that they look at on Instagram post their workouts. It's not totally unusual to see a cyclist doing some hard core, core workout. Not all of them are. There's still gonna be that old school skinny cyclist who just can't even touch his toes.
Right, right. If you had somebody in front of you who is that person who only rides her bike and only wants to ride her bike for the rest of her life, what cautionary advice would you give?
I mean, the way that I phrase it especially when I'm coaching the high school kids, because I do a lot of their strength programming is: honestly, my biggest thing is I don't really care if you win races. I care that in 20 years from now you're still riding a bike and you're not injured. Honestly, my first goal is not that you podium. On the plus side, you probably will have a better chance of podium-ing if you do this strength work. There’s no downside to adding it in. You will probably do better, be stronger and you won't break down as easily.
Also, If you want to ride your bike for the rest of your life, you should cash your chips in. Just put the work in now, so you're not all decrepit and falling apart later.
I don't know if it's just one thing. It's not like your back is going to be all messed up, or you will have low back pain. But your chances will be way less if you do it, so you might as well put in the work now. I don't want be injured and hobbling around. I want do all the stuff I'm doing now.
Think about the long game. You will be better for it.
Yeah. Then, say for your typical recreational cyclists in the Bay Area who love to get out on their bike son the weekends, what’s your best advice for how many times and duration for strength training I mean, there's your ideal, but what if all I have is one day a week, and just 30 minutes or an hour? What would you suggest they do?
Yeah. I mean to me, if you want real measurable strength gains. If you're looking at it from a physiological perspective, you probably need about 2-3 times a week of work to actually build measurable gains. But the reality is, honestly and I mean this 100%: 20 minutes is better than nothing. Even if you're just creating some type of neuromuscular connection. Get some basic form down. Just getting some super foundation level work. That would be ideal for me, versus zero. You know? Then, with that, you could make that your shorter time periods more intense. Could you do more exercises that are gonna use more of your full body. Yeah, that stuff would be great. Even if you're just doing bicep curls. Ultimately, whatever you can give. It's definitely better than nothing.
I always say, if I've got no time for anything else, at least bust out some bridges and planks. You know, at least do those.
Totally. 100% with that.
And maybe some squats.
If you have limited time, do you have something like that you consider the most bang for your buck?
Yeah. You don't need any equipment. If you just are in the middle of anywhere, you could do squats. You could do some planks. You could do some pushups. You could do bridges. Some mountain climbers. Keep it simple. Even just doing those four things would be awesome.
Want to know more about how to build strength off the bike so you can get faster on the bike? Check out more HERE!