Injury from Z2 work? What am I doing wrong

I have had a number of injuries in the past from overtraining while I was into triathlon. After 4 years, I was burnt out and stopped training for any endurance sports for the first time in my life. I sporadically did other sports for the next 3 years but nothing structured for more than 4-6 months at a time. I recently got excited about getting into cycling as a single sport (rather than through triathlon), with TrainerRoad podcasts being a huge motivator.
Knowing my past history with injuries I wanted to get into cycling as slow and healthy as possible. So, I picked up some old physio exercises and started with 30-40 minute rides. I only ever ride in Z2 or lower and slowly increase my time on the bike. It’s been about 9 weeks since I started, following a progression where I increase time on the bike every week for 3 weeks, then reset on the 4th week. My next cycle was going to be 3hrs, 4 hrs, 5hrs (PER WEEK). To keep it engaging I tend to focus on my pedal stroke and I switch up the cadence. One day I decided to do some Z2 at 80-85rpm and got a tight hamstring tendon. It progressed to what I feel is the very very early stages of hamstring tendonitis, and I have irritation (I call it itchiness) in what I think is my glute medius origin.
What is so wrong with my body that I can’t even do low volume Z2 riding without getting an overuse injury??

1 Like

First of all, welcome to the forum!

Second, I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues that prevent you from enjoying riding. I’ve been there (torn ACL), and it sucks. Find a good physical therapist near you and talk with them about it. A good PT is amazing, and this is likely a more complex issue than any of us here can understand so I would say you do need the input of a medical professional here. You have the patience to take things slow, and that’s going to pay dividends in the long term.

Good luck, and speedy recovery.

2 Likes

Thanks Jeremy.
I can’t count how many times I have been to a PT and they can only provide a limited diagnosis because I am catching issues before they become extremely serious and/or painful. That, topped with my limited income as a student, really makes me stay away from PT these days, but if I can’t resolve it on my own soon then I guess I might have to.

1 Like

What do you do in terms of stretching, stability and strenght training? Have you had a bike fit? What kind of diet do you eat?

I’ve stretched nearly every morning since starting for about 20 minutes, everything from the low back, to the hips, to the thighs, and then the calves. When I started getting back to cycling I was doing hip stability from past injuries, so glute bridges and hip abdcution with band, plus some eccentric calf raises (for a previous MTSS injury which I am thrilled hasn’t returned, but I’ve only been doing Z2 so I’ve no idea if the issue is still there). After a while the hip exercises became a formality so I moved into starting strength by doing functional exercises like lunges, deadlifts, single leg squats, continuing glute bridges (all with little or no weight).
I had a bike fit a long time ago, but haven’t done anything recently other than shorten my stem so I wasn’t as hunched over. Bars aren’t slammed low or anything. I am actually quite comfortable on the bike.
Diet is fair I’d say. Occasionally eat out, but generally eat appropriate amount of macros from cooked raw foods. Chicken, beef, fish, oats, potatoes, broccoli, salad, etc.

I think its worth your while to seek a formal bike fit. I had a fit done over 10 years ago, and had some niggling injuries after getting back into riding. I was comfortable. I had a retul fit done, with marked changes in my previous condition. Bike fit thinking has evolved over time.

I would agree with the suggestion to get a formal bike fit done. One thing you can check on is if there is a PT who is also a bike fit specialist. There is one in Kentucky that I had thought about going to if my problems had not been resolved. In my case both my local bike as well as the PT I was going to knew of him. Research the qualifications and you may get lucky finding such a person.

I’m going to guess your saddle is too far back and/or your seatpost is extended too high.

Hard to really say without seeing you on the bike though.

I seem to remember an old Podcast where Coach Chad talked about long endurance rides and the accumulated stress. I do remember him saying that the difference in stress during the third hour is much higher than that during the first hour.

Why Z2 is less stressful, could it be that you’re doing too much, to soon? Considering your history and time away from cycling in any format?

Maybe quit stretching so much?

Also you said “I am catching issues before they become extremely serious and/or painful“, so perhaps you might not be “catching” an “issue” at all. Could just be some soreness?

Do you have an itch somewhere and then google medical terminology and look for symptoms of the most painful injury, and assume that’s what you have too?

You’re still a student which suggests younger age, perhaps too young for so many issues?

Could be a mind thing vice a body thing.

1 Like

That doesn’t sound quite right! Normally if you’re too hunched over you’d lengthen the stem to stretch out more (and/or raise the stack with some spacers). I do think it’s worth getting the fit checked out, though understand reluctance if funds are limited.

Are you sure you’re not overdoing the stretches? Stretching too aggressively or without properly warming up can cause problems.

I’ve found in the past when coming back from injury that it can often be two steps forward, one step backward. Best approach I hit on that didn’t involve spending a fortune on physio was simply to listen to my body, take things slowly, and back it off or try a different approach if anything hurt. Maybe a progression of 3->4->5 hours/week is just a bit aggressive and you need to just get a few months of 3 hours/week under your belt and not worry about the progression right now. Could make up for the lack of cycling progression by adding in some swimming, or rowing, or on the cross trainer, or really any kind of aerobic exercise that you can do that doesn’t hurt. Variety is good - cycling uses a pretty limited set of muscles and range of motion, so doing other sports can help make you a more rounded athlete and more resilient to injury.

Other option is to try some different forms of cycling. I find sitting on the trainer to be the worst type of cycling for overuse or niggly injuries as I’m pedalling constantly with very little change of position. Whereas outdoors my position moves around a lot more as I get out of the saddle for climbs or accelerations, I’ll be moving around between drops, tops and hoods positions (with corresponding shifts on the saddle), depending on speed, wind and whether I’m at the front, etc. And on the MTB I shift around even more.

1 Like

I would also suggest getting a bike fit or at least reading up on it.

With regards to stretching, you might find the following video interesting:

1 Like

I’m fairly aerobically fit, having done endurance sport from age 8 to 23 before taking time off. I think I will look into what kind of bike fitters we have around. I do remember the fit I got years ago was pretty rudimentary and I’m sure they’ve gotten better.
I’m term’s of stretching, I really don’t stretch aggressively. In fact, I probably neglect hamstring stretching the most, and when I first noticed it, I noticed the tightness in the upper lateral hamstring.
Having had injuries in the past I like to think I have a pretty good feel for my body, but I do worry that I’m overly cautious these days. I did 15 minutes yesterday and felt ok. I’m going to try doing 20-30 today but sitting upright so I’m not putting as much stretch on the hamstring tendon.
I’m going to try to see if I can get some pictures or video on the bike maybe. Maybe that will help as I’ve never really seen my position before.

At a minimum, go ahead and drop your saddle a few mm. If nothing else, it will take some of the strain off your already tender hamstring / glute area.

Then get a full bike fit and see what they say. Agree with others that your seat is either too far back or too high (or both). But in the meantime, a few mm drop won’t hurt anything and may even give you an indication that height was the problem.

Here’s a link to some video I was able to get. My hips look like they rock a lot but I don’t really know what it’s supposed to look like. There’s a minute from each side and a minute from the back.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTYYjp0vzXI&feature=youtu.be

It’s almost certainly not an overuse injury.

Check out the resources here: https://www.painscience.com/

And here: https://www.barbellmedicine.com/blog/pain-in-training-what-do/, https://www.barbellmedicine.com/blog/the-science-of-where-your-pain-comes-from/, https://www.barbellmedicine.com/blog/catastrophizing/.

2 Likes

This is some interesting stuff. If anything it at least eases my concern that maybe my mind is overthinking it. Thanks Scorpion756!