by Angela Reed-Fox
Let's start with the one that isn't!
If your rider's behind is a bit sore, it's not time to skip the workout
It's not unusual for rookie riders to feel a bit 'tender' after their first (or second) cycling session. Although it doesn't happen to everyone, it is normal, and you can reassure riders of this. What's the best thing to do? It's best not to wait until the ache has gone before getting back on the bike. Give it 48 hours and then get back on - remember when you started out? It didn't take long for you to get used to it, and not to feel any discomfort at all. This is reassuring for new riders to hear - and also that the best thing is to come back in a couple of days and do another workout. Advise a padded seat cover or padded shorts if desired - but not both as this can compound the problem.
Muscle soreness - when's it too much?
The whole point of a workout is that we get results, get fitter, burn fat, and have a good time. Smashing your riders to bits just isn't necessary (and is likely to be counterproductive, leading to increased risk of injury and overtraining - with diminishing returns as you'd be overworking already tired muscles). Recovery is an underrated and often ignored part of the workout - but it's essential. Your body needs time to repair and replenish muscles - if you don't give your body time to do this, you won't see the results you've worked for.
Going back too soon after a challenging and intense workout is out then. How do you know when 'today' is too soon?
1. Struggling to mobilise
If you struggle to bounce out of bed as you usually do, or if climbing stairs, or sitting on the loo is considerably more of a challenge than normal, you need to rest your muscles.
You don't need to be completely immobile, some gentle dynamic stretching or light exercise of unaffected muscles is absolutely fine. If you're feeling it in your quads, then you can still do some work with your upper body if you need to, or go for a steady walk on the flat just to keep yourself moving.
2. No better after exercise
If you tried the gentle exercise tack, and you're still in discomfort - you'll need to take it steadier for a bit longer. If you're still within the 48 hours after your tough workout, it's likely you just need to rest for a bit longer. After 48 hours the discomfort improve. If it hasn't improved after 48 hours, you should seek medical attention - because that's not right!
3. "Weird" pain
If the pain is in one particular part of the muscle, you may have an injury. Rest, recuperate, and see how you are the next day. Generalised discomfort throughout the whole muscle or group of muscles is normal, a particular point of pain isn't.
If you need pain relief to cope with it, you'll need time to recover. Bear in mind though that ibuprofen and Deep Heat only masks the pain, it doesn't take away the cause of the pain. As with the point above, if it doesn't get better, seek medical advice.
4. If you have swollen muscles and your urine is a lot darker than usual
Yep, in the rare event that this happens, you'll need to see a doctor and provide a urine sample. Swollen, painful muscles and strangely dark urine are both symptoms of rhabdomyolysis - this occurs when the body starts breaking down muscle tissue and releases creatine kinase and myoglobin into the blood stream. These large protein molecules can cause kidney damage (hence the funny wee). This condition can happen as a result of 'crush' injuries as well as overly intense workouts with less than adequate instruction/supervision. If you think this is you, seek medical attention immediately. (It's rare, but as an indoor cycling instructor, you need to know that this is a possibility - and has happened. Keep yourself up to date with CPD and ensure you're always keeping your sessions safe and effective.)
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