It’s no surprise to most bicyclists that the health of their joints, especially the knees and ankles, is vital to their sport. Too often, cyclists wait until something is hurt before they take action to care for them. As an old Dutch proverb states: “Prevention is better than cure.” Below are five ways to upkeep your joints in an effort to avert injury and increase endurance.
1. Don’t StretchFirst
Most experts claim it’s important to stretch before doing any kind of physical activity. However, the tendons, ligaments, muscles surrounding joints need to have a mild warm up before stretching them. Stretching cold muscles can tear or sprain them. Jogging in place, medium speed jump roping, or other aerobic exercises that you can gradually increase over a 15 minute period is ideal. You don’t need to work up a sweat, just loosen up your joints in preparation of stretching and eventually, your ride. A hot shower can also loosen up joints prior to stretching.
2. Know Your Limits
Cycling offers the participant challenge and competition, either in race capacity or self-motivated mileage goals. Due to this push, it’s really important to listen to your body. You’re joints are no exception. Of course, after an especially strenuous ride can make muscles ache, but if pain lasts longer than a few days, it’s letting you know that you pushed too hard and to take it easier next time.Knowing what your joints can and can’t handle is vital to keep them in top shape and avoid long term damage.
3. Use Essential Oils
The high concentrations of particular essential oils offer several advantages for your joints. To better absorb water and keep the padding between bones spry, add a couple drops of lemon or other citrus oils to a glass of water a couple times a day. (Lemon juice also works here, but you will need more of it daily to get the same effects of the oils.) The ligaments and tendons also require vitamin C to stay elastic and prevent injury. Rubbing citrus, evergreen, or rosemary oil over joints before physical activity can help with this. Lastly, you can ingest or rub chamomile, rosemary, ginger, or tea tree oil on your joints to keep inflammation to a minimum. By doing this, you release any stiffness and prevent pain after biking.
4. Minimize Inflammation
The necessary avoidance of inflammation was mentioned in the essential oils section above. While the concentrated oils can help with inflammation, there are a couple other things you can do to also aid in this department. Making sure you have plenty of water to flush out any swelling or other. Also eating foods high in Fatty Omega 3s such as salmon, flax and flax seed, and hemp seed oil on a daily basis has shown a decrease in sport related inflammation according to a study conducting at Ohio State University. (Source: Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.) Lastly, the micro nutrient curcumin, found in its highest concentration in organic Turmeric, has been shown to reduce the risk of inflammation. Any and all of these suggestions can be easily done, and will shield your joints from future problems. If inflammation does occur, take immediate action and give your joints a good, old fashion ice down.
5. Brace and Gear Up Off the Course
This last suggestion may seem pretty obvious with so many helmet laws in place, but it goes beyond actual bicycling. Use wrist or knee braces or pads in other physical activities such as skating, tennis, or even regular running. The more you protect your joints outside of cycling, the better equipped they’ll be for your next ride.
It may not seem like it right now, but your joints are necessary to not only your future cycling endeavors, but your health as a whole. By following the five points we’ve made above, you can be sure that your joints will be ready for anything you can put them through. What do you do to keep your joints in prime condition? Please tell us in the comments below!