Running Analysis & Technology

We’re always keen to provide runners with the best opportunity to understand more about running and specifically how runners run. We love using technology and combined with assessment this works well for helping runners to get over injury and improve performance. As a team of techno geeks, imagine our delight when we got our hands on DorsaVi. A wearable device that AAEAAQAAAAAAAAOEAAAAJGEyYTk4ODA1LWZhMzctNGNjNy1iZTVkLTMwZTkxOWRiNDE4ZQrunners or teams can use to monitor kinetic running data & kinematic knee data to understand the loads and biomechanics of the athlete.

Wearable devices have been used for several years in sport specifically HR monitors & GPS trackers used to monitor load, distance and intensity of players, both in training and competition situations. Even though new evidence is being published to help us understand that training loads are one factor linked to injury, this study from expert Gabbett is particularly comprehensive [Gabbett. 2007].

It’s become more complex to measure biomechanics in the field of play because we need 3D motion capture to fully assess motion in team sports, which is unpredictable in many team sports [Willy, 2017]. The assessment of biomechanics in runners within any sporting environment is extremely difficult, hence the advent of such technologies that help assess movement naturally are welcomed by us.

Running

What we we look for?

Ground Reaction Force [GRF] – The force created by contact with the ground is referred to as the ground reaction force (GRF). This is the force the ground exerts on the body as we move.  According to Newton, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction [Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion – Law of Reaction]. As we make contact with the ground, gravity is constantly impacting the body [Young-Hoo Kwon, 1998: http://www.kwon3d.com/theory/grf/grf.html].ViMOve

Initial Peak Acceleration [IPA] – Correlates the vertical acceleration and loading rate through the tibia on ground contact, measured in G’s. The IPA being increased has been linked to higher rates of stress fractures [Crowell, 2011] and changes can be noted with alterations in cadence [Rios et al, 2010]. This graph illustrates these measurements nicely [DorsaVi ViMove2, Running Module Guide].

Cadence calculates steps per minute, two steps make up one stride. Recent research indicates shortening stride length and increases in cadence can help to reduce running injuries [https://www.runresearchjunkie.com/is-the-180-cadence-a-myth-or-something-to-aim-for/].

Absolute Symmetry Index [ASI] – is the calculation of average GRF Left vs Right. An example in DorsaVi would be a negative value indicates the right side is carrying more force compared to left.  A positive values shows left side is accepting more force than the right side. A normal deviation in ASI is 5% so we would want to reduce this whilst running [Herzog et al, 1989].

Speed – Looks at average speed over the course of the running time measured, usually measured in metres per second [m/s].

 

Everybody runs differently and this is dependent on multiple factors including:

1. Activity participation [distance runners, sprinters, team sports]

2. Running surface, environment & terrain [surface type, inclination, weather]

3. Running footwear

4. Position within a team or squad [defender Vs attacker]

5. Level of activity participation [elite Vs recreational]

 

What happens when these factors change?

Sports physio Paddy volunteered to test out the DorsaVi. We looked at his existing running style and implemented changes in order to measure the differences in kinetics data.

Within 15 minutes, we were able to assess Paddy clinically and on the treadmill. We looked at Paddy running at 9km/hr, 12km/hr & 16 km/hr. At each assessment, Paddy changed something in his gait to see what changes we noted in his kinetic data. The difficult question is, does kinetic data correlate to kinematics?

As the overview graph illustrates, Paddy completed 3 runs at 9 km/hr but what we can’t see from the graph is what kinematics changed.

  1. Rep 1 at 9 km/hr Paddy was running his normal gait pattern with no problems reported.
  2. Rep 2 at 9 km/hr Paddy changed his foot strike pattern which resulted in a reduction in cadence
  3. Rep 3 at 9 km/hr paddy attempted to shorten stride length and increase cadence
  4. Rep 4 at 12 km/hr increased speed which initially he achieved by increasing his cadence
  5. Rep 5 at 12 km/hr Paddy maintained his speed and his cadence settled to 173.
  6. Rep 6 at 16 km/hr we noted a huge ASI change which correlates to a previous lower limb injury Paddy has suffered on his right side. Increased IPA & GRF despite GCT becoming more symmetrical compared to previous speeds.

Conclusions

Overall, the DorsaVi running module kit is a game changer for us. It is portable and ease of use on the iPad. I would recommend it as suitable for all types, levels and style of runners. We only explored the running module in this article but the knee and lumbar spine assessment modules are great additions to any clinical assessment. The smart therapist would with clinical information, training information along with goal setting to get results with patients and athletes. The versatility of DorsaVi means its suitable for everyone not just sports people.

I’m yet to see any normal data ranges for athletes with GRF, IPA and GCT but differences in assessment and correlation can lead us to make assumptions – if the data supports the hypothesis of injury, then it can be used to change running gait, ultimately reduce pain and improve performance.

However, one question remains in my mind which I’ve not seen in research yet – Does kinetic data correlate to kinematics?

Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @taphysio

Instagram: @taphysio

 

References:

Gabbett & Domrow. (2007). Relationships between training load, injury, and fitness in sub-elite collision sport athletes. Journal of sports sciences. 25. 1507-19. 10.1080/02640410701215066.

Young-Hoo Kwon. (1998). Webite: http://www.kwon3d.com/theory/grf/grf.html. Accessed December 2017

Harrison Philip Crowell and Irene S. Davis. (2011). Gait Retraining to Reduce Lower Extremity Loading in Runners. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2011 Jan; 26(1): 78–83.

Jaqueline Lourdes Rios, Mário Cesar de Andrade, Aluisio Otavio Vargas Avila. Analysis of Peak Tibial Acceleration During Gait in Different Cadences. Human Movement 2, December 1, 2010.

HerzogNiggReadOlson . (1989). Asymmetries in group reaction force patterns in normal human gait. Med Sci Sports Exerc; 21: 110114

Baggaley, Willy, Meardon. (2017). Primary and secondary effects of real‐time feedback to reduce vertical loading rate during running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 27 (5), 501-507

Part 2: Beginners Outdoor Training

Hello, welcome back, so how did you get on with your first taste of outdoor training?

Courtesy of Nike Women Outdoors
Courtesy of Nike Women Outdoors

The time has come to move things along and challenge the system a little more. So I’m going to outline the next level with a new set of exercises. Each one will be slightly more advanced than the previous set but similar movement patterns.
As usual begin with your pulse raiser, run, cycle, light jog. Remember it’s only a pulse raiser so nice and easy. Once you’ve picked your spot begin your dynamic stretches. This session will follow a similar course as the previous one so you can stick with the same warm-up.

So to recap:

Dynamic warm-up: Heal kicks to bum, high knee run, high kicks (opposite leg to opposite hand), walking lunges, hamstring stretch, light squats. Finish off with arm swings (windmill motion) and hip rotation. A dynamic warm-up can be what ever you want, as long as it replicates your session.

Session: 20/25 minutes

We’ll do five exercises and three sets. As before if you feel you can tackle 4 then go for it but maybe for the first few sessions start with 3 and build from there. Mark out a 20 metre area for your jog/run as before (which will follow each exercise). You maybe already at the level where you can increase the distance or better still be able to sprint there and back.

1. Split squat x 10 reps per leg (20 metre run there and back)

Split Squat
Split Squat

Stand with one foot in front of the other, split stance, feet pointing forward. Torso nice and upright. Bend at the knees and pulse down until your back knee almost touches the floor. Your front knee should be nicely inline with your front foot. After 10 reps swap legs

2. Reverse lunge x 10 per leg (Run)

Reverse Lunge
Reverse Lunge

Much the same as a forward lunge only in reverse. Take a big step back bending both knees until they are at 90 degrees. Drive back through the heel and push forward. Then repeat on the opposite leg

3. Spider-man press up x 10 (Run)

Spider Man Press Up
Spider Man Press Up

Begin this exercise much in the same way as the traditional press-up. Arms directly under the shoulders, lower until elbows are pointing behind you. As you lower to the ground bend one knee to bring it up to your elbow. As you press back up your leg returns to start position. Repeat with opposite leg. Do five leg raises on each side

4. Single leg squat thrust x 20 (Run)

Single Leg Squat Thrust
Single Leg Squat Thrust

Start in the usual press-up position, body straight. Bring one knee forward under your chest. Jump one leg forward and one leg back at the same time. Alternate as quickly as you can

5. Reverse Bear crawl (begin at start point and crawl 20 metres, then run back)

Reverse Bear Crawl
Reverse Bear Crawl

Get down on all fours. Place one hand and opposite foot backwards and walk. Changing sides as you go. This is a little bit harder than walking forward and should really test your endurance. Once you finish, if you can, crawl (forward) back!

On completion of your first set rest for the usual 90 secs then go again. Hopefully with a few weeks under your belt you should be able to slowly cut down your recovery time. Once you’ve completed your 3 sets go for a light warm-down jog around the park for about 5 mins. Follow this with your usual static stretch, remembering to focus on all the big muscle groups, quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, groin and hip flexors. Finishing with some arm stretches.
Like before I’ve set a fairly low rep rate to begin with. As you get used to the new set of exercises you’ll soon be adding extra reps and sets onto your routine. As a bit of variation mix up your session by adding in the odd exercise from our previous list. It keeps your body guessing and avoids getting too used to the same movement patterns. It’s also more fun. Look to do this set at least twice a week but three times will really get you moving and closer to your fitness goals.

Remember these exercises are all about quality and not quantity. Always focus on your form and posture.

Good luck and look forward to our next set of exercises as we progress forward.

Level 3 PT- Outdoor Training Specialist. Chris Watson
Level 3 PT- Outdoor Training Specialist. Chris Watson

**Please note this programme is designed if you already have a basic level of fitness. Any medical problems or injuries please seek professional advice before attempting this session**

Part 1: Beginners Outdoor Training

Now you’ve made the decision to head outdoors to train, it’s time to get some structure into your session. As a regular gym goer you’ll probably have your own routine and level you feel comfortable with, certainly an idea of what stage you’re at in terms of what you deem hard or easy. So lets pretend that this is a whole new experience and start at the beginning.

As a new client I would assess your fitness level and always start fairly easy and go up through the gears as your potential unfolds. The harder you work the faster you’ll progress. Progression can be achieved with every session, no matter how small.

Shall we begin?

We’ve started with our pulse raiser, as mentioned in my previous article Outdoor Training, this can be a run or a cycle. I would recommend about 10 mins at a nice steady pace, nothing too energy sapping as there’s plenty time for that. This is followed by a dynamic warm-up. Usually base this around what you intend to do during your session. For example, if you are planning a forward lunge set, incorporate some walking lunges into your warm-up. This ensures your legs are ready for this movement. Always keep your warm up stretches dynamic at the start. Static stretches come at the end.

Week 1: Beginner session (1 hour)
10 mins pulse raiser – Run/cycle at a light steady pace

5-8mins dynamic stretch: mark a distance, either, with cones or between two trees about 10m apart. A good range for this session would be: Heal kicks to bum, high knee run, walking lunges, high kicks (touching opposite leg with opposite hand), light squats and a two step hamstring stretch (walk two paces, bend from the hip, keeping your legs straight and sweep your hands across the ground). Follow this with some hip rotation, arm swings (in a windmill motion) and a chest stretch.

Session: 20/25 mins
We’re going to start with five exercises and do 3 sets at varying rep rates (depending on the move). After each exercise mark a distance of around 20 metres and jog there and back to your start point. As you get stronger turn your jog into a sprint raising the intensity of your workout.

1. Squat x 12 reps (run 20m and back again)

Squat: Feet shoulder width apart, relaxed stance, back in natural state. In one smooth motion bend your knees, sticking out your bum (as if about to sit on a chair), finishing with your thighs parallel to the floor.
Squat:
Feet shoulder width apart, relaxed stance, back in natural state. In one smooth motion bend your knees, sticking out your bum (as if about to sit on a chair), finishing with your thighs parallel to the floor.

2. Forward Lunge x 12 (alternate legs, 6 per leg. run)

Lunge: Large step forward, with hands on hips. Leading leg parallel to the floor with your knee at 90 degrees and nicely in line with the front of the foot. Drive back up through the heal and repeat on the opposite leg. Make sure your back leg doesn't touch the floor
Lunge:
Large step forward, with hands on hips. Leading leg parallel to the floor with your knee at 90 degrees and nicely in line with the front of the foot. Drive back up through the heal and repeat on the opposite leg. Make sure your back leg doesn’t touch the floor

3. Press-up x 12 (run)

Press-up: Body in a nice straight line, head, shoulder and bum. Arms under your shoulders. Slowly press down keeping your arms nicely tucked in and elbows pointing backwards. Keeping abs braced let the chest lightly brush the floor and push back up.
Press-up:
Body in a nice straight line, head, shoulder and bum. Arms under your shoulders. Slowly press down keeping your arms nicely tucked in and elbows pointing backwards. Keeping abs braced let the chest lightly brush the floor and push back up.

4. Mountain Climber x 12 (run)

Mountain Climber: Begin in an upright press-up position.
Mountain Climber:
Begin in an upright press-up position.
Mountain Climber: Now bring your right knee to your left elbow, with a slight twist of your torso. That's one rep. Repeat on the opposite leg
Mountain Climber:
Now bring your right knee to your left elbow, with a slight twist of your torso. That’s one rep. Repeat on the opposite leg

5. Bear Crawl (begin at start point and crawl about 20m. If you can crawl back. If too hard, one way is fine to begin with. Then run)

Bear Crawl: Drop on all fours.
Bear Crawl:
Drop on all fours.
Bear Crawl: Place one hand and opposite foot forward, walk forward changing sides as you go. The lower you go the harder it gets
Bear Crawl:
Place one hand and opposite foot forward, walk forward changing sides as you go. The lower you go the harder it gets

On completion of your first set rest for about 90 secs and go again. Take longer if needed but try not to exceed 2 mins. The aim is to cut the rest time as you progress. Once you have competed 3 sets and rested for a couple of mins, go for a light warm-down jog for about 5 mins. This is followed by our static stretch. Be sure to stretch of all the relative muscles. Start with the big muscles like the quads, hamstrings and calves. Follow that with hip flexors, groin and glutes. Finishing off with some arm stretches. Always remember to do as it helps with your recovery.

I’ve set a fairly basic rep rate for this session as it’s a good starting point. Complete your first 3 sets and see how you feel. You will be able to tell fairly quickly if you need to add more reps to each exercise or even an extra set. Don’t be scared to push it that little bit each time. Try and fit this in at least twice a week but I’d recommend 3 times.

cw
Level 3 PT- Outdoor Training Specialist.
Chris Watson

Give it a go a see how you get on.

Next time we’ll look at ways to progress your session and the benefits of this kind of training.
Chris

**Please note this programme is designed if you already have a basic level of fitness. Any medical problems or injuries please seek professional advice before attempting this session**

7 Minute Work Out

7 Minutes Is All It Takes To Make The Olympics
7 Minutes Is All It Takes To Make The Olympics

I recently read an interesting article titled “7 minutes to get fit” with the catch line “Do twice a week. Job done”. Instantly I was intrigued, fit in two 7min sessions, this ought to be good, or too good to be true. So I began to read.

Studies have found you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to achieve your fitness goals. By following a quick, tight regime you can make a big difference to your overall fitness. The 7 minute work out is a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) which means extremely intense bursts of activity followed by brief periods of recovery. Research suggests 7 energy sapping minutes broken down into 12 exercises is comparable to a run and weights session combined.

As a strong believer in hard work and time spent in the gym, or park, I was a tad sceptical of a quick fix solution. It sounded a little like a short-cut way of getting fit and I therefore questioned its impact.

So I decided to put the 7 minute workout to the test. I selected a reasonably balanced set of exercises to begin with. Well I’ve got to say it’s a pretty tough 7 minutes. The combination of aerobic and resistance moves gave me a very
balanced and challenging workout. It has been said that HIIT has shown time and again to “deliver numerous health benefits in much less time than traditional programs”. This all sounds very intriguing and exciting but it’s time to let
the public decide.

Having tested it on myself I decided to let my clients decide if it’s a way of training they’d be interested in. I selected a couple of willing participants and designed a program based on the 7 minute workout structure. Carefully mixing
a variation of cardio and resistance movement patterns and timing each exercise at the desired 30 second length (with a 10 second reset between).

My guinea pigs, whom have a fairly good level of fitness, found the session “pretty challenging” but really enjoyed the variation and tempo, finding competing against the clock both fun and exciting. They really felt they’d worked hard and gained a lot from this way of working. As I had a full session to fill we did 3 sets of 12 exercises with a two minute rest between each set. This added another level to the challenge.

Only time will tell if the 7 minute workout will return the fitness goals we’ve set but it was certainly a good start.

See below an example of a structured session containing 12 exercises:

This way of working, I believe, is best done as part of a 3 set, 2-3 times a week routine. Doing two 7 minute workouts per week will undoubtedly improve your fitness levels but I’d suggest doing 2-3 sets twice of three times per week
(if time allows) for maximum potential. So give it a go and see how you get on. I’d be very interested to know your thoughts on this training approach and if you feel it’s working..

A little bit of advice when attempting the 7 minute workout. It’s pretty tough and only recommended if you have a fairly good base fitness due to it’s high intensity nature. If you’ve not exercised in a while then I would suggest a more gentle approach to begin with and build up to the 7 minute workout.

20131026-182636.jpg

Always concentrate on form and doing the exercise correctly and please research any moves you’re not familiar with to avoid any injury or bad habits.

Remember these exercises are all about quality and not quantity. Always focus on your form and posture.

Good luck and look forward to our next set of exercises as we progress forward.

Level 3 PT- Outdoor Training Specialist. Chris Watson
Level 3 PT- Outdoor Training Specialist. Chris Watson

**Please note this programme is designed if you already have a basic level of fitness. Any medical problems or injuries please seek professional advice before attempting this session**

Avoid HARM for acute injuries (TOP TIPS)

Avoid HARM for acute injuries

After injuring yourself it can be difficult to know what to do. Do you use, ice or heat? Rest or movement? Elevation or massage? The asnwers to these questions are found in the type of injury that you have sustained.

Image

Acute Injuries

An acute injury is an injury with a sudden onset, usually as a result of some sort of impact or trauma, such as a fall, sprain or collision. Acute injuries are sudden and sharp, occur immediately (or within hours) and cause pain (possibly severe pain). With this form of injury, two acronyms are extremely valuable to remember: RICE and HARM.

RICE

The RICE acronym is one that should be followed as the four factors help to reduce swelling and inflammation that is likely to occur within the first stages of healing for an acute injury. RICE stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

HARM

In contrast, the HARM acronym provides four factors that should be avoided with acute injuries, and stands for:

  • Heat
  • Alcohol
  • Running
  • Massage

HARM is extremely important to remember within the initial 48 hours following an acute injury because both heat and alcohol cause the blood vessels to dilate (open up) – this increases the bleeding in the injured area. Exercising the body part or massaging the area also has the same impact and can be detrimental to the healing process.

Chronic Injuries

Differing to acute injuries, chronic injuries can be subtle and may emerge slowly, with no known factor that triggered it. Chronic injuries may come and go, and may cause dull pain or soreness. Long standing low back pain is a classic example of a chronic injury, and often results from overuse and repetitive movements. However, if an acute injury is not effectively treated, it may lead to a chronic problem.

Heat therapy

Heat therapy is frequently used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling – such as nagging muscle or joint pain. Using a heat pad, or getting into a warm bath can help to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and stimulate blood flow, which can consequently aid pain relief. Whilst this is often a temporary solution, it can provide relief nonetheless.

Prodced by JB Physio and re-produced with permissions via twitter

Cycling Technique and Muscles

Cycling Technique & Muscle Activation:

Thanks all for taking the time to read my blog about cycling. I’m only a physiotherapist and by no means a coach or bike fitter so these are just my observations and understanding from reading around the topic.

PEDAL_2915652a

Cycling Muscle Co-ordination

The diagram to the left demonstrates the muscular sequence of events in the correct cycling pedal turn.

Right at the top phase of the pedal strike the power should come straight on via the glutes, the muscles of the bottom, and power down to a point where the large quadriceps muscles share the power and gradually become the dominant mover in the sequence.

During the lower section of this movement the calf muscles join the quadriceps to push the pedal through the lowest section of the pedal turn. It is then the turn of the muscles of the shin to pull the toes back up to level the foot out and the hamstring muscles to bring in a powerful pull back up. The final stage of the movement is the muscles of the hip flexors pulling the knee back up to the start phase.

When a cyclist cycles with this sharing of power there is much greater ability to create higher wattage, power, on the bike by not having any dead spots of power during the cycle rotation. It also means that there is greater use of all muscles and no overuse of one muscle group which helps prevent injury and muscle overuse issues.

Common Faults and Corrections

The most common problems that we see with cyclists of all levels are:

  • Overuse of the quadriceps – most people who cycle tend to rely too much on the big muscles of the quadriceps and this can result in reduced power due to inhibition
  • Lack of power on the lift phase – The current advice from British Cycling is that amateurs need to not be concerned regarding the upstroke of pedalling. The risk is an increased overload of the hip flexors. Training the hamstrings and the hip flexors to be able to perform this task is essential if you are to maximise all phases of movement. So an incremental increase in focusing on the pulling on the up stroke should be gradually introduced. However, this comes with a warning: DO NOT TAKE PRESSURE OFF THE OPPOSITE DOWN STROKE. Its easy when learning to ride smoothly to focus on too many things. The skill in using clip in pedals & shoes is timing, up stroke pulling whilst maintaining downward pressure on the opposite down stroke.
  • Tight muscles across hips and hip flexor strain– Its easy, in the beginning to overload the hip flexors due to the flexed nature of cycling. Like all sports, exposure should be gradual and incremental over a number of weeks. The hip is key in cycling and needs to work in an optimal range. The muscles around the hip, as we can see on the diagram above, are important for generating power (hip extensors) but also for moving the foot into the power phase (hip flexor). It’s important not to overwork the hip flexors and not to have too much hip flexion resulting in the anterior hip compression. If the hip has a lack of ability to efficiently bring the knee to the top phase of movement the body usually compensates through the upper body, resulting in swaying at the lumbar spine. This is commonly seen when you watch a cyclist from behind and see their back swaying from side to side with every pedal lift. This happens as the body makes room for the knee to be lifted through and puts a great deal of stress on the spine and the muscles of the lower back. Good range of movement and wiggins_2270877bstrength through the hips allows for good knee lift through the top end of pedal phase and power to go straight on, with the body holding tight and allowing maximum power transfer through the pedals. Lack of adequate range here also tends to result in repeated lower back tightness and pain.
  • Toes pointing down or toes pointing up? The current trend is neither, British cycling advocates a neutral foot position so that the power of the calf complex can be optimised.  If you watch cyclists you will see a vast number who cycle with the toes lower than the heels at all phases of movement. This style of rising will often be partnered with the body being positioned too far forward so that the knee can get over the pedal. This toe pointing style of riding makes it very difficult to use the glutes effectively in the first phase of movement and also makes it much harder to bring the knee back over the top phase of movement at the end of the pedal movement and be ready for starting the next phase. Equally, toes pointing up can result in a loss of power generation from the large calf complex which is particularly utilised in the down phase of the pedal stroke. Ultimately you should find your own style, don’t copy others, find what’s comfortable for you & riding styles can depend on your sport: For example, a triathlete might not be encouraged to ride with toes up because they might utilise their calf complex which in turn might inhibit the initial stages of their running. Yet on the other hand, should a world champion triathlete ask if they should change they’re cycling foot position, probably not: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’
  • Knee alignment over toes. During all phases of cycle movement, when you watch from the front, the knee alignment should be almost directly above the line of the toes at all times. This is particularly important at the top and power phase of movement. This alignment during power phase allows all power that the cyclist generates to be transferred down through the leg and into the pedal. If this alignment is out the power will not be directed down into the pedal, therefore losing power. The added lateral movement through the body will add strain into the joints of the knee, ankles and pressure across the foot.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope this has given you some insight into cycling technique and mechanics of muscle use when partaking in all levels of the sport.

 

Always remember to enjoy cycling and Lycra is cool, whatever anyone else says. We offer physiotherapy, pilates, & sports massage in Crouch End & Finsbury Park. Please book online here

 

Regards

Team TAP

Clinic_header

Saddle Issues for Female Cyclist by Bianca Broadbent

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As I am a female bike fitter, we tend to get a lot of female cyclists come in for a bike fit, with their primary complaint being saddle comfort (with numbness and soreness being the top issues within this). It is unfortunately normal for cyclists to think that saddle discomfort is something that needs to be tolerated, but this is simply not the case. In extreme cases cyclists report pain or difficulty urinating for several days post ride! Of course the exception being long distance cyclists or cyclists whom may not have “acclimatised” to spending periods of time in the saddle.

The saddle is the one of the most fundamental things to get right on the bike, and without this all other adjustments will be less than optimal.

You might ask yourself, what signs and symptoms should I look out for which tell me that my current saddle choice or set up isn’t right for me? Some of these might be:

  • Numbness
  • Lack of sensation when passing urine during the ride or after the ride
  • Soreness, whether this is in the genitals themselves, the perineum or the tops of the thighs
  • Saddle sores
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Deformity to soft tissues

As a result, we have compiled a brief list of things to look out for and consider changing in order to make your cycling more comfortable and alleviate those unwanted pelvic symptoms.

 

 

Saddle

 

As we mentioned, some of the most common problems arise from the saddle itself. A decent saddle is worth its weight in gold. We have found that there are many factors that dictate which saddle will suit you best.

  • Saddle height – too high and you will rock on the saddle which will lead to possible chafing and friction
  • Saddle tilt – some saddles are actually designed to have a slight nose down tilt i.e. ISM. Others are supposed to be set up according to the middle third. As a result a lot of the saddles we see are often far too nose up!
  • Saddle fore/aft – too far forwards and too much anterior tilt can place a lot of pressure on soft tissues and thus shoulders. Consider moving the saddle further back to allow a neutral pelvic position and optimal load transfer through upper limbs
  • Riding style – if you adopt a more upright riding style you may want something slightly wider to support the contact points of your pelvis. Conversely, those who ride in a more aggressive position will need something that maximises pressure distribution otherwise soft tissues will take most of the weight
  • Sit bone width – this is more relevant for the recreational and upright riders, but women often have wider ischial tiberosities which may mean a wider saddle will help load bony prominences rather than soft tissue
  • Saddle “cutout” – many clients find relief from a small channel cut out which reduces pressure through the neural and soft tissues within the pelvis
  • Soft tissue anatomy – Cobb cycling have a very good article on “innies” or “outties”. It’s true that if you have more soft tissue exposed this will dictate what kind of saddle you will prefer.
  • Brands that we tend to find alleviate these problems are Cobb, Selle SMP, Specialized. It’s not that we don’t like other saddles, but when client’s have problems these tend to be the ones that resolve the issues

 

 

Pedals/cleats

If you have asymmetries in your pelvis (functional, leg length or you over pronate or supinate), this can lead to changes in how your hips and knees track. As a result this could cause chafing on one leg, or make you sit to one side. There are a variety of ways you can resolve these issues:

lemond-lewedge-pronation-supination

  • Cleat wedges – these are small angular pieces of plastic which will change the angle of your foot. They can be stacked or layered to stop the foot over pronating or supinating, or to address small leg length discrepancies
  • Cleat shims – these are thicker pieces of plastic that can be stacked to reduce the severity of the leg length. Bikefit.com produce very good products
  • Insoles – to help the knee track and thus reduce compensatory strategies at the hip
  • Combination of in the shoe adaptations e.g. heel wedges and forefoot wedges – however these are space occupying so can be an issue
  • Cleats too far forward may also change your tipping point and cause you to come further forward on the saddle

 

 

Cranks

rh_crank_lengths.jpg

Now the cranks are a widely overlooked aspect of bike fitting. It would be difficult to discuss them in great detail during this article, but what we do know is that the standard cranks that come on a bike aren’t always suitable for the rider on the bike. For example, we had a triathlete in recently who was approx 5ft 5 but running 175mm cranks! There are many reasons to pick cranks;

  • Leg length – it is suitable to pick cranks that roughly match the leg length of the rider NOT the height
  • Hip/knee flexibility –If this is lacking (or albeit even if it is not!) it is best to look for shorter cranks which allow you to pedal in a smooth motion, otherwise this movement often tracks back to the pelvis, where excessive rocking can cause shearing forces through soft tissue and thus pain!
  • Closed hip flexion positions lead to strains through pelvic floor musculature which can also impact on negative sensations and experiences

 

 

Handlebars

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The handlebar position can have a HUGE impact on symptoms at the pelvis.  If the reach is too short you may round your pelvis and put yourself in an suboptimal position, too long and you may put too much pressure through soft tissues. Too low and you will end up with the same problem, it might not be an issue for 30-60 minutes but over the course of a long ride this is when problems can manifest. You might also want to consider shallow drop handlebars to reduce the pressure when riding on the drops.

 

 

Other

  • Seatpost – Believe it or not, changing the seatpost can be a VERY good way to help reduce pressures through the saddle. If you are especially sensitive consider a carbon seatpost or something with shock absorption to help dissipate the energy that would otherwise end up in your pelvis

 

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Specialized CG-R. Cyclocross Magazine
  • Chamois cream – anecdotally clients whom have had pelvic pains report that chamois cream helps immensely, particularly when their mileage has significantly increased or they have started doing longer riders

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  • Decent chamois – do not underestimate the benefits of a decent pair of shorts! A well designed chamois will help reduce friction and pressure through sensitive areas. Personally I find something with a little extra padding more comfortable, but less padding suits others. It’s worth spending the extra money, believe me! (Just made sure you put them on the right way round!!!!)

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As this is just a basic outline on bike issues, we will be publishing articles that address each bike component separately.

If you have any questions for us feel free to email info@fityourbike.co.uk or contact us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fityourbikeuk

If you are interested in booking a bike fit, we operate clinics in Birmingham and Essex, and our fitter is female so perfectly placed to empathise with any pelvic issues you may be having!

London to Paris – How To Survive

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In May 2013 a friend emailed a small group of us and outlined his plans to cycle from London to Paris, with or without us. In the spirit of naivety four of us agreed to do it, and so the date was set for October 2013.

One would think this is plenty of time to prepare for such an event, and it is, as long as you do the preparation and don’t leave it to the last minute. The journey was planned and mapped out according to Donald Hirsch’s back road route via Newhaven and Dieppe (the route maps are available to print here).

The team consisted of four riderswiggins_2270877b; Oli, Alex, Hamish and myself. It was a simple plan – as are most things in theory – start on Thursday evening and finish on Sunday morning, a grand total of 220 miles. We even allocated roles within the team; Oli was to be the mechanic, Hamish was on map reading duties, Alex was our GPS reader and guide whilst I was to take on medical duties.

In preparation for the event we each undertook individual training regimes, but we all did one long ride (100 miles) together to gauge each other’s riding abilities and work on communication. On this ride it became apparent that we had different levels of fitness within the team, which meant we had to adopt our daily mileage to Paris according to the ‘weakest’ rider.

This is important in order to avoid over exhaustion early in the journey, and for everyone to be able to keep the pace for the duration of the 220 miles. The main training involved in preparing for the event was time spent on the bike getting plenty of miles under our belts. It sounds so obvious to say it, but if you want to be a good rider, you have to put in the mileage.

The other piece of advice I’d give relates to consecutive days of riding. Its vital that your body adapts to being in the saddle for consecutive days and pedalling the bike for consecutive days, in our case four days.

The Hirsch London-to-Paris route is a peaceful and enjoyable route which, once in Dieppe, consists mainly of riding Route Verte (disused railway), but it still takes three days to do it. We split the days into the following mileage:

– Thursday: London to Haywoods Heath (60 miles)

– Friday: Haywoods Heath to Newhaven (20 miles)

– Friday: Dieppe to Forges les Eaux (34 miles)

– Saturday: Forge les Eaux to Forete de St Germain (72 miles)

– Sunday: Forete de St Germain to Paris (35 miles)

The key to our journey being a success, in my opinion, was down to a few factors. First was using both the map and GPS tracker set up to navigate our way. Second was preparing our bikes to do touring distances; changing tyres, adding mud guards and adding saddle bags. Most of all we made the trip fun, because when you are covering those sorts of distances you have got to enjoy it, otherwise it soon becomes a chore and you start to resent doing it.

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Having the right equipment meant we were able to limit tyre changes (not fun) and took time to enjoy long lunches, as well as coffee breaks, ensuring moral was maintained throughout. Overall, the experience of riding a bike from London to Paris was amazing, and without doubt one of the best experiences I have had in life. I strongly recommend it to others, but remember; plan for it, prepare for it, do it and enjoy it.

Tom graduated from UWIC with a degree in science, health, exercise and sport, and then specialised in Physiotherapy and graduated Coventry University in 2008. He has worked in musculoskeletal clinics and community based falls prevention rehabilitation, both for the NHS, and is currently clinical director at TA Physiotherapy. Outside of work, he enjoys staying fit and healthy by attending the gym, completing triathlons and road cycling.

Pregnancy: To exercise or not to exercise?

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Advocate for fun and accessible fitness for all. Get in touch @rachael_PT

Rachael Field Roddis – Personal Trainer, pre & post-natal qualified trainer and mom of one has taken the time to write a piece for Tom Astley Physiotherapy blog. So sit back and relax with a cup of brew before making those plans for returning to exercise:

 

The mentality of eating for two and giving up exercise during pregnancy has thankfully waned in recent years. If a pregnancy is without complications and the mum-to-be is clear of injury and/or medical conditions there should be no reason to prevent safe, appropriate and modified exercise all the way to full-term. Like any fitness programme it should be prescribed to suit the woman’s own health, lifestyle and fitness levels, we are unique and so is each pregnancy. Using my own pregnancy as an example, you can see from the first to the third trimester different physiological and biochemical changes just require exercise adaptations to workout safely.

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In the first trimester (0-12 weeks) training was hampered by sickness. Being sick on the gym floor was not going to make me any friends and so I trained less frequently due to the nausea and fatigue. One of the first valuable lessons I learnt about pre-natal exercise: “Listen to your body and don’t exercise to exhaustion.”

 

Changes in hormone levels require more care and attention to be taken when exercising. Asking the mum-to-be to look out for the signs and verbally screening before you start each training session is crucial. The hormone relaxin softens ligaments and connective tissues throughout the whole body, but is meant to primarily prepare the pelvis for delivery and cervix dilation. When I reached the second trimester (13-26 weeks) my joints started to feel unstable when running on a treadmill. To prevent injury I lowered the impact and used a cross-trainer. My flexibility increased and I had to be mindful of this when stretching and not taking exercises past the usual range of motion. Each woman will be different and some don’t feel these major changes but err on the side of caution at all times.

 

aerobics.jpgOn the homestretch, the third trimester (27-40 weeks) and more than anything the size of a woman’s bump will now probably dictate what exercise can and cannot be performed. For me it wasn’t the size of my bump but a change to my centre of gravity that forced me to adapt exercises. A lack of balance made it more difficult to perform exercises I’d usually find easy. To continue executing them I made modifications, for example by working unilaterally and using an inclined bench or wall for support.

 

Resuming exercise after the birth depends on the type of delivery and what happens during labour. At present it is suggested that after a vaginal delivery it should be at least six weeks and for a caesarean section it’s twelve weeks, to allow for post-operative healing. A medical professional must give the post-natal client the ‘all-clear’ before she starts exercising. I was grateful to receive an exercise sheet from a physiotherapist after the birth, which had safe gentle abdominal and pelvic floor exercises that I could do straight away. After the ‘all-clear’ from the GP it was a case of me creating time for fitness while adapting to motherhood and breastfeeding too.

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Pre and post-natal exercise has so many psychological and physiological benefits, why would we not promote it? As fitness professionals we have the ability to support, encourage and provide knowledge for risk-free enjoyable exercise during this remarkable period.

At Tom Astley Physiotherapy we advocate exercise participation through pregnancy and post-pregnancy, we can offer you pre & post natal Pilates classes in small groups lead by a qualified Physiotherapist – Anna Meggitt at Project: Me (N8 8JQ).

Contact us on 0203 659 3545 or info@taphysio.co.uk

 

The author and contributor to the blog, Rachael, also works in North London and is available for private personal training.

Contact Rachael on rachael_pt@yahoo.co.uk

 

Commonwealth Day #9 – Reflection 4

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XX Commonwealth Games

 

The 2014 commonwealth games is coming to a close within the next few days. The Glasgow platform has provided some amazing sporting outcomes and a great experience for athletes, team officials, and Clydesiders alike. As part of the medical services, working in the polyclinic has given me a taste of the multi-sport elite level competition, and whilst it is hard work, it’s certainly something I have thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The What?

I have learnt a lot from being in the polyclinic environment and working alongside some fantastic physiotherapists over the past two weeks. When an athlete is injured, they usually transferred to the polyclinic, from the field of play, to receive world-class treatment. However, what happens when the athletes doesn’t listen?

 

So What?

A netball player presented to the polyclinic with an acute ankle sprain, 2 days previously, she sprained her ankle competing. Treatment was provided to aid recovery but as part of my assessment, I enquired as to when she was competing next, the reply I received was ‘5pm today’.

As physiotherapists, we naturally want to promote activity and sports participation, but sometimes the body needs time to heal. The athlete always wants to play and the coach always wants their best players fit for action. The difficulty comes when the coach is present to hear your opinion about an injury or doesn’t choose to hear it.

I advised the netball player that should not play on her ankle in its current state, despite the fact that she had a game that afternoon, and this is why.

The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis
The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis

The tissues within the body are maintained in homeostasis through training and competing. The tissues and structures in the body are pushed into ‘supraphysiological overload zone’ when competing, which means that are optimised within the ‘Envelope of Function’. When these tissues are overloaded beyond the ‘Envelope of Function’, i.e an injury occurs, then tissues fail and break or rupture. due to injury, the envelope of function is reduced and tissue homeostasis is disrupted.

 

What this means in the context of the athlete competing, is that they have a reduced physiological ability to perform to their highest level, which would be needed at an international event like the Commonwealth Games. If the athletes does compete with a reduced ‘Envelope of Function’, then they risk further injury as the tissues get overloaded beyond the envelope sooner. The cycle of boom and bust can re-occur until the tissue is given sufficient time to heal and repair to restore tissue homeostasis.

 

Now What?

1) Communicating the importance of tissue healing to athletes is difficult but needs to be emphasised to avoid boom and bust cycle of injury.

2) Communicating the outcomes of clinical assessments to the athletes medical team should be done immediately to discuss return to competition but athletes want to play and coaches want their best players available for selection, so getting this message through can be difficult.

3) Treatment of injuries should be looked at in the short-term and long-term outcomes with the athlete at the centre of the treatment goals

 

Reference

1) Dye SF. The pathophysiology of patellofemoral pain: a tissue homeostasis perspective. Clin Orthop Relat Res 2005; 436:100-110.