How New Cyclists Can Avoid Joint Discomfort

Cycling is often seen as a low intensity form of exercise, ideal for people of all skill levels. Whilst there is some truth to this, you might be surprised by how common cycling-related injuries really are. For one thing, cyclists can of course come into close regular contact with other road users, but almost as common are joint-related injuries.

A number of studies in recent years have focused on regular cyclists, asking them about the incidence of joint injuries. The results are quite surprising, and suggest that up to 85% of cyclists experience some joint pain at one time or another in their cycling careers. Of these, an astonishing 36% required some form of medical treatment to relieve discomfort.

In another survey cyclists were asked specifically about any back pain they experienced as a result of cycling, and found that almost half of respondents suffered such discomfort on a weekly basis.

The exact joints that can suffer vary from one cyclist to another, as they are affected by a range of factors from experience level to cycling form. The most common source of joint-related injuries are in the neck, knees, hands and the lower back. Interestingly, female cyclists were found to be twice as likely to develop shoulder and neck injuries than male cyclists.

So what can new cyclists do to minimise their chances of joint discomfort when cycling?

Pace Yourself

Experts have found that there is a direct correlation between the distance cycled on a monthly basis and the odds of joint discomfort. What is more, there is clear evidence that over time the body starts to become attuned to cycling. Muscles and ligaments strengthen, making injuries rather less likely.

The key message here is that it makes sense to ease into cycling gently, giving your body a chance to recover between sessions. People who start off their New Year’s Resolutions with the aim of cycling every day, for example, could be significantly increasing their odds of injury. Instead, aim to slowly increase the number of cycling sessions, the distance travelled and the intensity of exercise over an extended period of time. As an example, a sudden increase in hill cycling, which puts additional pressure on the knees, has been linked to increased joint pain.

Anyone planning a long cycle ride, such as a competition, a sponsored bike ride or a cycling holiday would therefore be advised to slowly build up their cycling over a number of weeks before the “big day”.

Warm Up Properly

One interesting study asked several hundred cyclists to record all manner of elements about their cycling regime. What the scientists found was that the volume of stretching and warming up is directly linked to the chances of joint injury. The better prepared your body is for exercise, the better able it is to cope with the stresses it is put under.

What is more, whilst cycling primarily relies on the legs, a huge range of other joints may also be involved; including the neck, back, shoulders and wrists. A comprehensive stretching program before cycling can therefore go a long way to preventing joint pain afterward.

Cycling Position

Your bike itself can have a huge impact on your joints. A low saddle position, for example, has been linked to increased force on the knee joint.

On the other hand, many more competitive cyclists like to set their saddle very high and their handlebars low, in order to achieve a horizontal back position. This does of course have the benefit of lowering drag, making cycling potentially easier, but it can also have unintended health consequences. This horizontal back positioning has been linked to neck pain, which is believed to stem from muscle fatigue caused by holding up your head for extended periods of time.

Even how you hold your handlebars can impact joints. The use of drop handlebars, for example, have been linked to lower back pain. So too has cycling along with your fingers resting on your brake levers.

The evidence therefore suggests that there are two more great ways to avoid joint pain. Firstly, consult an expert to ensure that your bike is of a suitable size for your frame. Ensuring the pedal-to-saddle distance is correct can also help to reduce joint stress.

Secondly, unless you are a competitive cyclist, a more upright position can be far gentler on the joints. Rather than sitting with your back horizontal, instead try to sit up straighter whenever possible. Mountain bikes or tourers, with their more upright position, may therefore be better than racing bikes for beginners.

Increase Thigh Muscle Strength

Studies by sports scientists have found that increased muscle strength in the legs can reduce pressure on knee joints. Serious cyclists may therefore benefit from some resistance training and a protein-rich diet to help increase muscle size and strength.

Don’t Overdo It

Injuries can be a major source of problems for professional athletes. It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that a large amount of time has been invested into how cyclists may minimize the negative effects of their exercise.

One study monitored not just injury rates in cyclists, but also recorded detailed information on everything from how far the cyclists travelled each week and even the types of surfaces on which they exercised. From here, the scientists were able to extrapolate out the results, looking at those aspects that seemed most clearly correlated with the risk of injury.

The experts found that the distance cycled is directly proportional to the odds of suffering from joint pain. For example, cyclists who exceed 160km a week were found on average to be 3.6 times more likely to experience back pain that those cycling under this distance.

Whilst cycling can be addictive, the evidence therefore suggests that cyclists would do well not to overdo the distances travelled, especially in the early days.


Lastly, some supplements are believed to have a positive impact on the joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two popular examples, which can often be bought together in one handy supplement. It is believed that glucosamine can help to reduce joint inflammation, and may also be an effective natural painkiller. There is evidence that chondroitin may have a role in helping joints to repair after damage has occurred. Together, such supplements can help to support healthy joints, especially among those of us carrying out regular intensive exercise like cycling.

Thanks to Richard at Simply Supplements for this article.


Adidas City Runs: Shoreditch 10km 8.10.17

If you’d asked me a year ago what I’d be up to on this date I probably would’ve said I’d like to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Then if you’d asked me six months ago I probably would’ve said I wanted to volunteer / work at Royal Parks Half Marathon. Then along came Shoreditch 10km.

Now let’s be honest; whether we signed up or not, we all had reservations about how this event was gonna go down. First of all it was the same date as what felt like every other autumn race. And then many were hesitant to part with £40+ for a 10km. But somehow I think everyone may be feeling a little different after the event and that FOMO (fear of missing out) may be kicking in. And to save me regaling every minute detail of the event I’m just gonna give it to ya straight (in the way I used to); the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
Well, my start wave was 915am so when I arrived at the race village at 845am and the toilet queues were ridiculously long I went and had a neck / shoulder massage from Elite Evolution. Of course I did. So once I finished that and got dressed again (it’s now 907am), there were no queues for bag drop and I ran straight into the portaloo before running to the start line and catching the end of my wave as they got ready to start. Phew. There were also plenty of portaloos on the course; I saw a set at least every km or so for the first three km. Then the first water station at 4km. Perfect.

Having not run 10km since The British 10km in July I really wasn’t sure how I would fare for this event. I started off running with friends Sharon and Ogechi and made it my goal to stick with Ogechi as she was running a pretty steady pace. Well, my Suunto Spartan was telling me I was running under 6 minutes per km which I found hard to believe but y’know, I just kept going. And going. And going. I only stopped to walk at the 7km mark (at the water station) for about 30 seconds.

And I’m just gonna jump straight to the epic medal and race village here. There were plenty of photo opportunity spots but you know how the British like to queue so one would be empty while people queued half hour for another. There was plenty going on too; competitions to win trainers, food stalls, a DJ ...enough to warrant you hanging around as long as your stomach would allow before you needed a proper meal! We decided to refuel at Pizza East as they were offering a 25% discount for runners that day; we ended up having a coffee across the road in Pret while we waited (around 25 minutes) and it was well worth it to not have to worry about heading home and cooking that afternoon.

The Bad
The sun came out as I crossed the finish line and silly me wore a long sleeved top underneath my race tshirt. It was about the same time that I realised I’d left my timing chip in my bag. Epic fail. This is THE FIRST TIME in my racing history that I have ever done that but tbf it is 2017 and not many races use chips tied to your shoes. I’m used to them being in your bib which you kinda have to have on to be able to start the event. So I don’t have an official time; I mean, it’s questionable whether I was there or not right?! But I know that Strava knows the truth.

Talking of proving I was at the event. The course photographers seemed to be condensed in the first km where it was so crowded I really don’t think they got decent pictures of many people, most definitely not of me. Then I saw maybe two more photographers on the course and as the crowds didn’t really ease until about 8km I still don’t think they would’ve gotten a decent picture of me which is a shame as the race photos come as part of your entry fee (even if they are defaced with advertising when you download) so you kinda wanna make it worthwhile in that sense. I did however make sure to pose for the photographer just before the finish line!

The course was a pretty windy route; although I know a ton of people ran PB’s I also know that they prob have a little more in there for when they don’t have to play dodgems with other runners and take so many corners. I’m not a big fan of running on cobbles either so the section in the last 2km like that ended up with me running on the pavement to try and avoid injury.

The Ugly
The course was situated on the back roads of Shoreditch so this meant that many of them had speed bumps in place. With plenty of cars still parked on the course and lots of runners there was little or no option but to run over the speed bumps and this is where it got a little ugly. One guy tripped and fell right next to me; I helped him up and he seemed alright, even carrying on running (we were only at the 4km mark). I then saw someone in the race village after the run who showed me the result of her own fall in what sounded like the very same place... scratched knees, bruised hands and torn tights being the result.

We finished the race and ended up in the busiest / most crowded finishers funnel ever. I think it was a combination of coming in at the same time as many other runners and the funnel being just a little too narrow. We spent a good few minutes huddling through to grab a medal, some fancy water, regular water, cliff bar, jelly babies... yup, quite a handful. Would probably have been a good idea to pop it all in a goody bag and give it to people in one go.

All in all though, I had a great morning at the event. For the first ever Adidas City Run they did a pretty decent job.

Did you run?! What did you think of the event?! 

Elle :) 

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Behind The Screen: The Emotional Labour of Blogging

Photo Credit: Serena Reidy

If you’ve ever met me in real life, I hope that you’ve seen the version of me that’s always laughing. Apparently that me, is the one everyone loves to see in photographs (yah, I’m looking at you adidas runners lol). But if you really know me, or at least have met me on a number of occasions, chances are that there will be a time where I’m not my usual laughing self. I remember back in my office job, my manager told me that being “emotional” was something that was frowned upon in management. But as far as I was concerned, I was just being authentic. I literally cannot hide how I’m feeling; it’ll always be written all over my face and quite frankly I refuse to have to pretend to be any other way than how I’m really feeling.


Long Ride Sunday | Wrapping Up My Summer Cycling With L’Etape London 24.9.17

It’s funny how fast time flies; after taking part in L’Etape London in 2016 I knew I wanted to take part again for 2017. When the time came to sign up though, I decided to stick with the same distance (the short route, 49 miles) as I knew it’d be the end of my summer cycling “season”. With our epic ride to Paris in July, the reality was that I would want a break so cycling 49 miles was “doable” on whatever training I would or wouldn’t manage to do over the rest of the summer.

And it’s a good job too because I accidentally signed up for Tough Mudder on the day before L’Etape (my diary runs from Sunday to Saturday so it looked like two different weekends when I agreed to one on the Saturday and one of the sunday!) And after the 6 miles of Tough Mudder I woke up on the Sunday feeling a little sore to say the least...

I planned to ride the event with Sophie (my Paris buddy) and Andrea (our Dirty Wknd buddy) so we all signed up for the Cycletta - women’s only wave - which also happened to be the very last wave of the morning at 9.15am. I’m not really sure what happened but the combination of not that many women signing up to the wave and the start marshals not even knowing the wave existed meant we started late... all 6/7 of us (pictured above).

I didn’t have a plan in my head for these 49 miles; I just planned on catching up with Sophie and chatting our way round. We knew what to expect in terms of the route and how to fuel so it kinda was like any other long ride Sunday but with a medal at the end. One thing you have to take into consideration with this event is that the roads are open and within the first few minutes Sophie and I were separated from Andrea (and in a good way, we never saw her again till the finish cos she absolutely smashed her ride!). We were also treated to a pretty warm day for late September which has its perks...

I was feeling pretty exhausted on the morning due to Tough Mudder, having returned from my vacation just 5 days before and from what I now realise is anemia. But all in all, I didn’t feel too bad. When we got out of “the city” and hit Essex I knew this was where the hills were gonna be and I was ready... actually I was more ready than I realised. We rode Toot Hill and honestly, I’m still not sure we really did as it didn’t feel anywhere as bad as it has done previously so I guess that’s testament to the hours I’ve put in on the saddle in the past year, or past six months especially.

It was nice to be riding at a pace where I could take in the views, recognise some of my solo routes on weekend rides and enjoy Sophie’s company. A quick stop at the feed station just past the half way mark for some roasted new potatoes, jelly babies, pain au chocolait (I ate some of everything!), to top up our water bottles and a bathroom visit then we were off again for the final 20 something miles.

It was after this that we hit Epping High Road and the combination of leaving the Olympic Park so late along with everyone (drivers especially) being in a bad mood meant that we hit traffic and some very unfriendly (and vocal) drivers along the way. Playing dodgems with cars is not exactly what you wanna experience in the middle of a sportive... so by this point my main goal was just to get back to the finish line in a safe manner as quickly as possible. The route back to Stratford from there was a familiar one as our Paris crew has done quite a few rides out East starting from the very same Velodrome. It was flat and would be fast, had there been less traffic. Just as we got to Whipps Cross Hospital, I lost Sophie at some traffic lights and decided to just put my head down and get to the finish line. I’m not sure how far away it was at this point... maybe 3 miles, maybe 5 but it felt like forever! Finally, I made it back to the road track for the final km sprint finish. It was great to see that the finish line had been moved so spectators could see it and it meant that once I got my medal I was right there along with Andrea to cheer Sophie across the finish line too!

One medal, one pint of Erdinger (alcohol free beer) and one podium picture later and all the fun was over, it was time to head home...

Just like last year, I had a great time but I’m left wondering so many things... like why is female participation in cycling so low? Why do drivers dislike cyclists so much? What can I personally do to help encourage women into cycling? And what can I personally do to bridge the gap between drivers and cyclists?!

Elle :)

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Huge thanks to Human Race for inviting me back to take part in this event again and to SportCam for providing us with a few of our race pictures to share in the post.


How To Tackle Your First Tough Mudder Like A Pro

A number of months ago, I agreed to put together a team to run Tough Mudder (TM) in London. It would be my first TM event but my second obstacle course run. I'm never really keen to put events in my diary too far away because as this proved (once again) when the day comes you just might not be feeling it. I returned from my trip to Barbados just 4 days before race day and I was struggling with getting back into my routine and into the swing of London time again. I decided not to think about the event until I landed back on British soil and once I did start thinking about it I only seemed to want to talk myself out of taking part. On race morning, I literally decided not to go then gave myself a talking to, pulled on some kit, packed a bag and made my way to meet my team mates (...you remember this awesome squad I introduced you to right?!). And I just wanna say, what a damn team... they literally made this day for me.

In my last minute preparation I read a couple of blog posts about what kit to take and checked out the official TM page to ensure I took along everything that I needed on the day. I didn't have time to read anyone's race reports or to find out the minute details of each and every obstacle we would be taking on. And honestly, to save the universe from yet another start to finish recap of what went down I thought I'd just share with you the important details, maybe even the things I wish I'd known before or was very glad to have known in advance and of course if there's something I just have to share about (erm, like Michael and Tash trying to convince me to do the full distance the whole time! Lol) then I will.

So here goes...

Choose The Right Distance
TM recently introduced the Half (5 miles) distance which we completed this time round. I chose this distance as it was one I felt I could comfortably complete with no specific training and I think that's a key point. However, you can rest assured that the event is not a race; we literally had to take a pledge on the start line in which they reminded us that TM is a challenge not a race. Just remember that the real challenge often comes from the obstacles rather than the distance. Overall, my Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR clocked that we ran just under 10km which prob around 6.5 miles in total. Apparently the course is never dead on the distance it’s billed as but who’s counting anyway?!

Do Your Prep (Training)
I can't exactly speak from experience on this one but I can speak from a place of being a fitness professional. I know there are a ton of training programmes and workouts on the internet which say they are to get you ready for these obstacle course events but I think they could possibly be a load of crap. My tips would be to focus on body weight exercises with a dash of cardio (intermittent stuff like playing football would transfer fitness sooooo well) and then get some practice in lifting some heavy sh*t. Lol. And that's that. There’s a huge upper body focus on many of the obstacles and that’s prob where us ladies fall below par, eh?! Luckily though, camaraderie is so high that no one will let you struggle by yourself! When it came to climbing the two massive walls I was prepared to skip those as all I could see in my mind was me falling all the way from the top after Sophie had told me about her experience at another obstacle course race previously. I screamed out loud (accidentally) when I saw it and when I blinked everyone was there to help me get up, over and down the other side. I did both walls. I’m proud.

Pack Your Kit Bag Like A Boss
I was lucky enough to have made some good decisions when it came to kit. So I'd like to pass along those tips for sure...

- Long sleeves: wear long sleeves. Do it. It was a pretty warm day for our event but still I wore long sleeves. They kinda protect your arms a little from extra scrapes or splinters.

- 3/4 length tights: similar reasoning to wearing long sleeves tbh. My knees still suffered a little bit but at least they still have all the layers of skin. I'd suggest you choose a material that is made for sweating too as that will help reduce the amount of mud / water that they retain over the duration of the course and will mean they'll dry a fair bit faster.

- No cotton: carrying on my point from the trousers, cotton will just soak up water / sweat / mud and get heavier. Trust me, it's bad enough that your shoes will get sooo heavy, you don't want your clothes to be hanging off you adding more weight to the situation.

- Trail shoes: this one can go both ways really. I saw some people on the course with their TM branded Merrell trail shoes which looked lightweight with awesome grip. I don't own a pair of trail shoes so I used a pair of Brooks that I used the one and only time I've ever been trail running. They were already muddy so it wasn’t completely the end of the world when I saw the state of them at the end of the race. TM do take your muddy shoes after the race if you want to donate them to charity (they wash and clean them of course).

- Taller running socks: these might help to prevent stones getting in. I mean they won't stop stones getting between your sock and shoe but if something could possibly help then why not do it?!

- Tie away loose hair: there was a point where I thought I might leave a large proportion of my Afro puff attached to the barbwire that I crawled under.

- Beach towel: helps you to keep some dignity should you end up changing in your car.

- Regular style bra with clasp at back: again useful as it’s easy to take off / put on under a towel.

- Something warm and cosy for post race. Once you get some of the mud off it’s nice to feel comfortable for your journey home.

- Wet wipes to help get the mud off. But take note that the only thing that will get all the mud off is an actual shower at home.

- Bin bags to store all your mud sodden kit on your way home

- Snacks / meal: they do sell food in the TM village but as ever, it’s ridiculously expensive.

- Cash: if you take your bag into the race village you have to pay for the bag drop. Yup, I know. So either leave your bag in the car or take cash.

...and last but not least, don't wear or take anything on the course that you're not prepared to lose!

Don't Go It Alone
Although everyone is super friendly and helpful on the course it’s still more fun to do the event with friends. Having people who (hopefully) won’t drop you, people to take pictures with before the start, along the course and at the finish makes it that bit much more fun. It’s also great to have that shared experience to look back on forever and ever (because that is prob how long I will talk about this for).

Smile For The Cameras
If I was gonna go a Tough Mudder then I needed to get pictures to document it. I borrowed a chest strap for my GoPro from Michael and captured some time lapse footage but that only turned out to be about 3 seconds long! I did manage to get a few decent photos from it though. So at every obstacle I made sure I had a big smile ready for the cameras so I’d have some fab images to use in this post and keep as memories. Your pictures are completely free which is a bonus... but you will have to do some wading through to find them. If you can somehow, record the times that you reach the obstacles and that should help you to find your photos a little faster.

A huge shout out again to my team mates Tash and Michael and to every other mudder out there who gave me a helping hand! It was massively appreciated! ...shout out also to For Goodness Shakes for being the ones to finally persuade me to get tough in the mud and fuelling up us to the start line. As pictured below, Michael braved wearing his FGS tee shirt during the race... I saved mine for post race (that warm and comfy outfit I just told you about).

Should the opportunity come up to do a Tough Mudder again... I think I would jump at the chance!

Have you gotten your Tough Mudder headband (they don't do medals)?! ...what's stopped you from taking part before?!

Elle :) 

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