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Author Topic: Tight Calves, Ankling, and Cycling  (Read 22801 times)
The 100 Mile Club
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« on: March 04, 2009, 03:06:06 PM »

     Last week we looked at shin pain as it relates to runners.  This week it?s cyclists and triathletes.  As previously mentioned shin pain can be caused in part from biomechanics and/or tight calf muscles.  In one hour of pedaling the average cyclist?s foot moves up and down more than 5000 times - 5400/ hour if you spin at 90 rpm.  At the center of this motion is the ankle and looking up the chain, the more than 10 muscles that bridge the lower leg to the foot.  It?s no wonder that ankles are second to knees when it comes to overuse injuries while cycling; the most common ankle injury being Achilles tendonitis.
     With over 5000 rotation per hour, calf muscles can become very tight leading to the above mentioned ankle stresses and can be felt as shin pain when hopping off the bike to begin your run.  Riding with your saddle too low forces your ankle into an exaggerated flex position and causes what is known as ankling; pointing the foot up at the top of the pedal stroke and down at the bottom.  The easy solution to this is to raise your seat height.  Your saddle should be high enough that you are not forced to ankle but not so high as to cause your hips to rock to reach the pedals.  A proper pedal stroke is ?quiet? at the ankle, think heel high not toe down.  Keep in mind that your saddle height is not locked in, it is fluid.  At the beginning of your ride you may not be warmed up so not as flexible, adjust it down slightly, part way through you may need to bring it back up.  Clothing also impacts your seat height.  The thickness of the pad in your shorts to the thickness of your socks can impact on the perfect saddle height and needs to be adjusted for on each ride.
     If you ride with a clipless pedal system you are locked into the bike which can affect muscles and joints up your body.  Check the clips on your shoes periodically as they can be shifted over time if they are not securely attached which can throw your biomechanics out.  Speedplay Pedals are the best choice for athletes with biomechanical pain on the bike as they allow the foot to float.  This ability to drift can eliminate pain by changing movement.  If you wear an orthotic for running or daily use, wear it in your bike shoe.  Leg length differences can also be adjusted for by shimming your shoe. 
     Runners and cyclists typically have tight calf muscles and sometimes slow swim times.  If you are a triathlete and want to improve your swim time institute a stretching program or regular massage of your calves.  Try a standing straight leg calf stretch for the upper calf muscles, a bent knee stretch for the lower calf muscles after training and a standing heel drop on the bike as you cruise towards transition in preparation for the run segment. 


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