As a former professional cyclist for Great Britain Alice Monger-Godfrey knows how demanding cycling can be for your whole body, not just your legs.
Throw in the fact that most of us have a taxing day job it’s no wonder we often end up with a few niggles. In this video Monger-Godfrey, now a qualified Osteopath, tells us how to improve posture which could lead to gains on the bike.
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What are the common reasons for seeing an osteopath?
Alice Monger-Godfrey: Often it’s that someone has had pain for quite a long time, typically lower back pain, which we’re renowned for seeing as osteopaths. But I also see a lot of neck, arm and wrist pain, shoulders and all of the back, knee, ankle and hip, so it’s absolutely everything really!
AMG: Simple things like carrying a bag, most people will always put it on one shoulder, they’re not as cool but you can get quite nice rucksacks now and it will even the weight out. Be aware of how you are as well, if you’re sad, stress or upset during the day everything changes so if you can try to really relax, take deep breaths and be aware of your body position that can make a big difference as well.
What has the biggest impact on our body: time on or off the bike?
AMG: It’s a bit of both. At the top level, elite racing cyclists and people who train full time only ride their bikes. If they’re not riding their bike they’re not standing, they’re not sitting, they’re lying down and resting so a lot of it for them will be on the bike, especially if they’ve taken it up at a young age.
But when you’re looking at people who are doing it at a recreational, but good level, it’s often a combination of both. Because what you do get is someone who’s taken it up in their 30s or 40s and hasn’t ridden before, they have maybe played sport when they were younger but they’ve been at quite a desk bound, sedentary job for up to 15-20 years and they then decide, ‘I’m going to go and do a race’ and they haven’t prepared for it.
The risk then is that you overload your body and get injured. And that’s where the problem starts for a lot of people, you’re going from not doing very much to complete overload.
AMG: Obviously people toss and turn during the night but we always recommend, and again it’s down to the individual, you should try to neutralize your neck position in terms of pillow height and by lying on your side you’ll being a more neutral spine position.
When you lie on your front, you completely change the way your spinal curves are and sometimes it can cause problems but it’s all part of a package really.
What’s your top advice if want to stay in good shape?
AMG: I think it’s really important to get your bike set up correctly and just enjoy your riding. It’s not until you become ill or injured that you might realize how good it felt to be fit and healthy and have your body functioning properly, people take it for granted.
Everyone would get their car MOT’d but not many people get their body MOT’d and it’s the best machine, you’re using every single day.
It’s good to be body aware. There will always be something you can improve to function as best you can and be as comfortable on the bike as possible.
You may want to go a bit faster, or your neck may ache after a long ride, or you may feel tired but you can achieve your goals. You don’t have to be in raging pain to come and see me, or to correct your bad habits day-to-day, it’s all down to you.
AMG: Stress has a big effect on the body so try to address that. Keep it up too, it’s easy to think you’re fixed but it’s all about maintaining the good habits. My goal is to get people, realistically, seeing me as little as possible, it can start as 100 per cent me and zero the rider and then the percentage shifts as we go on so it’s 90 per cent down to you.
The other thing is you need to stay active where possible. People often have that initial niggle and stop completely. They think ‘I’m not going to do anything’ and sometimes that can make things worse because nothing’s being used then and you can strain other parts of the body.
So you must keep active but keep within your limit. Also you should act before it’s too late, a lot of people start to cope by taking pain killers but it’s important not to ignore things and you will recover quicker.