I could talk about biking all day. Not only is it a great cardio workout, but it's also a great way to get around. I've heard some people say biking isn't for them because it causes back pain, so here are some tips for keeping your back happy while pedaling about town.
- Bring your ride to a bike specialty store for a bike fitting. They'll check the frame size, the height of your seat, and the height of your handlebars and adjust them all to fit you.
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears to relieve tension in your neck and upper back. Also keep a slight bend in your elbows so they can act as shock absorbers.
- Check your posture while riding. Your spine shouldn't be in an upright position. If your torso is straight up and down as if you were standing, it doesn't allow any give when you hit road bumps, so your vertebrae will jam together and aggravate existing back pain. So aim for a slight arch like a hill, not a sway back like a smile.
For other helpful tips,
- Try clipless pedals. They'll allow you to use all the muscles in your legs, and will also prevent your toes from pointing out, which can cause back pain.
- Learn to use your gears. Switching to lower (easier) gears when climbing hills will take the pressure out of your back and legs.
- Take breaks from sitting on your saddle and stand on your pedals, especially during long rides. I call these "booty breaks."
- If you have a back injury or chronic pain, a traditional bike may be putting pressure on your vertebrae. So try a recumbent bike, where your torso is reclined.
- When you strength train, be sure to do exercises such as squats and lunges to strengthen your quads and hamstrings. The stronger they are, the easier biking will be, and the less strain it will put on your lower back. Don't forget the core work, either!
- Stretch after your ride. Target your lower back, hamstrings, and hips.