Many have purchased and now religiously use a Peloton bike over the course of the pandemic. Whether it’s because changing schedules and lack of commutes, there’s more time to work out at home. This can only bring good, right? Well, not quite. Turns out this Peloton Pandemic can cause some injuries.
The “Peloton Pandemic” Craze
No matter how well intentioned, it turns out that new work out routines may be doing some damage. According to some doctors, the new surge in Peloton—or other home exercise bikes— users may be causing an influx of overuse injuries. In addition, there are also aggravated necks, backs, wrists, and knees. This pain is coming from using the at home bikes incorrectly.
First thing’s first: It makes sense that cycling-related injuries are on the rise, says Rahul Shah. Dr. Shah is a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon at Premier Orthopaedic Associates in New Jersey. “Now that cycling is a more common routine of many who work out at home, the relative share of working out injuries seems to have shifted from CrossFit to at-home cycling,” he says. Because more people are cycling than before, statistically it makes sense that the numbers are rising.
“I have seen an uptick in cycling injuries with at-home bikes. Most are overuse and related to going from no exercise to overdoing it on the bike,” agrees Christopher Mattern. Dr. Mattern is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, NY.
Cycling Injuries That Occur
What are some of the injuries that occur from overuse?
One common injury is hip tendonitis. This is a painful inflammation or irritation of a tendon in the hip, according to Dr. Shah. Because your feet are locked into the pedals, you have limited ability to move your leg at hip level.
“Many people have undiagnosed hip issues, which cycling can exacerbate,” Dr. Shah explains. While there are special shoes you can buy to help, Dr Shah recommends adding as much variety to your ride as you can. Try changing the frequency, intensity, and duration, along with switching between sitting and standing.
Another injury you may encounter is knee pain. You may think. you’re in the clear because cycling is considered low-impact, but doing too much too soon can still harm your body.
“Sometimes in the process of pushing through the knee when you bend, it can become irritated, especially if you have arthritis or irritated cartilage, so it’s important to start small, and then add more time and intensity,” Dr. Shah says.
Try to curb your competitiveness and take it slow, as it will improve your quality of fitness in the long run. “By taking more breaks and dividing the workout into smaller workouts, the chances for injury is minimized because the body has a chance to reset and recharge between workouts and is thus more resilient to additional stress,” Dr. Shah says.
“Intensity is not always a determinant of a good workout,” says Peloton instructor Kendall Toole. “In fact, the key to truly elevating one’s fitness is finding the balance between active work and recovery.”
Another key to avoiding injury—stretching before and after each workout. “Invest in some great self-care tools like a foam roller or a lacrosse ball and become best friends with them,” says James Lewis, a SoulCycle Instructor on Equinox+.
How to Avoid Peloton Pandemic Injuries
One way to ensure your body stays in tiptop shape is to add variety to the types of workouts you do. You should not only be cycling. Toole stresses the importance of cross-training in different modalities — Peloton, for example, offers more than 10 workout options in its monthly app subscription, including strength, yoga, barre, and stretching — that challenge your body in different planes of motion.
It’s also essential to listen to your body’s cues. For example, when your body says you need rest, listen to it. “When you are training at your best, you should never have a ‘so sore I cannot put on my skinny jeans’ — at least if you’re a millennial! — kind of post-training experience,” Toole says.
While the experts note that cycling may not be the best workout for everyone (for example, anyone with pre-existing low back pain and associated core weakness might find themselves making things worse, Dr. Mattern says), by and large, they’re still all for it — and doing it themselves. The Peloton Pandemic craze has benefits. “Cycling has been a Godsend for so many during the pandemic. It’s so beneficial for cardiovascular and muscular health and can be used for everything from active recovery to high-intensity interval training,” says Rand McClain, D.O., a sports medicine doctor in Santa Monica, California and chief medical officer of LCR Health. “One of the beauties of cycling is the safety and low predilection for injury — especially indoor cycling where the risk (no small one) of a bike vs. motor vehicle accident and/or falls is eliminated,” he adds.
In fact, most cycling-related pain comes down to user error. For example, “Neck and back pain are common and can be related to improper seat height and improper hand bar positioning,” Dr. Mattern says. Other patients have complained of wrist and forearm pain, which can be caused by supporting their weight through the arms and gripping the handlebar too tightly, he adds.
Steer Clear of These Beginners Mistakes
So, to avoid hurting yourself, check out some of the most common mistakes beginners make that can lead to injury, according to Lewis and Toole.
Your Bike Seat Is Too Low
“Knee pain is common in biking, often from the seat being too low or too high,” says Dr. Mattern. Toole adds that she most commonly sees the bike seat too low. “If it looks like you’re riding your little niece’s bike that recently had its training wheels removed, it’s time to raise up that seat,” she says.
“You want your seat to be just at the height of your hip,” says Lewis. “I like to measure the saddle against my waistband, right where my pants stop.” The goal: “You’re not on your tiptoes or ‘reaching’ for the pedal, and you also aren’t flat-footed or pedaling down from a flexed ankle,” Toole says. This will not only help prevent knee pain but will help your power and output skyrocket, she adds.
You Aren’t Using Enough Resistance
Despite what you may think looking at the front row of most cycling classes, speed isn’t everything when it comes to indoor cycling. While too much resistance can over-stress your muscles, tendons, and joints, too little resistance can cause you to spin out of control, putting you at risk of falling off your bike.
Remember, speed isn’t everything when it comes to cycling classes. Though too much resistance can be a no-no for your muscles and joints, you can cause just as many issues by having too little resistance. You need to find the sweet spot. “Resistance is like the floor you stand on, it’s foundational,” says Lewis. “No resistance equates to bad form.”
Your Bike’s Seat Is Too Far Forward
Be aware of having your seat too far forward. Not only can you bruise your knees, but you can also do internal damage. “To give a simple comparison, the general rule when squatting is to ensure the knees don’t track past the toes — and it’s the same concept here,” Toole says. “Just before you push through the pedal at the highest most point in your pedal stroke, your knee and toe-box should be in a vertical line. I often find that when riders complain about knee pain, this is most often what needs to be adjusted.” She recommends keeping enough distance between the bike seat and the handlebars so that you can keep a soft bend in the elbows, while also keeping length in the spine.
Your Handlebars Are Too Low
Toole says that a torso that’s ‘crowding’ the handlebars is one of the most common bike setup mistakes she sees. “This results in an arched back, aka hello pesky lower back pain,” she says. “This can often be corrected by moving the bike seat itself or by raising up the handlebars to take the pressure away from compressing the lumbar spine.”