I just wanted to follow up on this because when I first started experiencing this I was searching everywhere for someone to say how they got better and while I’m not out of the woods yet, I am already so much improved, and I’m currently riding without pain and (for the most part) not feeling pain off the bike. So I want to share my experience and what I did.
First, I got a bike fit. I want to say, that this is the common recommendation to addressing pains and niggles and while I think it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s a panacea for addressing these sort of things. I am in a privileged position such that I can afford to see a nice bike fitter, and my thought process was that even if it’s not my fit that is causing these issues, correcting that first gives me the foundation to start making other interventions. They really didn’t change much for me. They moved my saddle higher slightly (maybe a cm or so). The most noticeable change they made was the adjustment to my cleats.
The second thing I did was take time off the bike. I took three weeks completely off the bike. No riding at all. I now think this was longer than I needed, but I had some travel obligations and things of that nature and instead of cramming in a workout or two in between trips, I just let myself rest.
Thirdly, I started a self-prescribed PT routine. I did see a doctor and get a referral to physical therapy, but the earliest they could see me was more than 6 weeks (I actually have my first appointment next week). In the meantime, I started stretching my hamstring, IT band, calves, etc. and foam rolling all of this as well. And I did some strengthening exercises for the muscles around the knee: wall sits, unweighted leg extensions, one-legged standing from seated.
When I returned to riding, I kept the intensity low. Just short z2 rides. I did this for about a week to 10 days and felt good. I thought the PT work must be working and maybe I was all healed. So I threw in a real workout and immediately had symptoms return. This was super discouraging. Back to the drawing board.
I did some more research and changed the focus of my self-prescribed PT work. I continued to do some of the stretching and strength exercises I was doing, but I then introduced more hip mobility and glute strengthening work. I think this is what really changed things for me. I had always heard the line “Your glutes should be firing” or whatever and just kind of shrugged it off. I assumed, if I needed the muscles to work on the bike, they would be working. I don’t have to tell my forearm to help my bicep when I’m doing curls, so my glutes must be doing something on the bike automatically. Wrong. I started focusing on actually using my glutes on the bike, which I achieved by opening up my hips. Just really making sure that my whole leg was involved in the pedal stroke starting from way back and up. Good God. I have been using TrainerRoad for 2+ years consistently, and I am pretty fit on the bike. When I started actually using my glutes, I was exhausted. I realized just how unconditioned I had left this muscle group. More hip work, more mobility, more glute activation exercises before and after riding. It feels like I am re-learning how to bike. It is so much more difficult and requires real concentration.
Again, I am not “healed.” I think these are things I will need to continue to work on (even if less frequently) for as long as I want to train. I also acknowledge that this won’t be the answer for everyone. But I seem to be improving now so there is hope.