Can physiotherapy improve your cycling performance?

Words & Photos by Adam Aubrey

I’ve always thought that a visit to the physio is something you undertake during your rehabilitation after surgery. I also assumed a trip to the physio is usually for people and professional athletes who want to treat underlying conditions such as sprains, back pains, arthritis as well as many other types of body-related aches and pains. 

Coming from a person that has never had a bone breaking accident or chronic pain from the body I never really took that much interest in what a physio does until recently. On invitation, I had an experience at a physio that really opened my mind up about what they can do for you and how they can actually help with mobility as well as prevent future muscular problems. 

The opportunity at the physio actually came about through a conversation with professional downhill mountain biker, Muhamad Fadzlee Ariff, who is currently recovering from a broken femur and fractured pelvis after a bad crash while training for one of his MTB competitions. He really did look like humpty dumpty after a big fall, and the photo of his crash which showed his legs in all the wrong places did send shockwaves through the local mountain biker community. 

According to Fadzlee, he has had bad crashes before and although he recovered eventually, he has never really truly healed from those injuries. Some movements were never really the same and he thought the absolute worse after this recent crash.

Luckily for him, he stumbled upon Physiowerkz and believe it or not, he has recovered well from his latest accident and also managed to make some movements that have eluded him for the longest of time. He believes this is down Physiowerkz, the physio centre that is currently treating him.

But Physiowerkz are much more than just about getting athletes back to the top. They do many other things including a programme called ‘inFITnitum’ which basically looks over your body and detects where imbalances are at the muscular system level and to rectify these issues. Although the pains and aches might not be apparent now, this sort of problem will rear its ugly head in the future if not addressed. 

Not only does ‘inFITnitum’ help resolve these issues, the programme also makes your muscles work more efficiently in general. In relation to cyclists, the inFITnitum programme is not about bike fitting but rather about riding more efficiently. It’s about getting your body to work with the least energy consumption for the best output. They always say that cycling is all about marginal gains, but in all honesty this could possibly give you the biggest gain of them all.

The InFITnitum programme starts with what Physiowerkz call the PMAT system. This system is a one of a kind movement analysis which ends with a series of treatments. The PMAT system has 3-stages: 

Assessment 

An assessment of the cyclist’s current and past medical history, complaints and problems, individual lifestyle and activities as well as general mobility. This is where the physiotherapist will identify problem areas and should be able to explain what your body can ideally do.

Treatment

Once the problem areas have been identified, the treatment methodology is created. This is a tailor made treatment based on the physiotherapist’s experience and expertise. The physiotherapist will do some initial manual therapy to try and kick start the treatment, which you will then have to continue daily by yourself based on the follow up instructions.

Mobifit – Mobile & Fit

The Mobifit is essentially a way you can maintain your newfound pain free movement and mobility through some exercises. Physiowerkz has some classes which can help introduce you to these exercises which will help to maintain your new body optimal status.

The experience

Physiowerkz has two branches, namely in KLCC and Publika, which I chose to visit since the branch is closer to my home. After filling out my details and answering some health questions I was introduced to Eva Tiong, a physiotherapist who has BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy Sciences from Northumbria University, United Kingdom. She then sat down with me to have a conversation about where I might have some untreated pains and aches. Since the only pain I have is at my lower back after carrying my 14kg daughter for around 10 minutes, we quickly moved on to the assessment stage.

This is where Eva asked me to stand, sit and walk in certain ways to analyse my body. Eva took footage of the stances and positions she put me in for later reference. Although most parts of my body and stances were symmetrical, she did find that might right side is slightly lower than the left, probably caused by core weakness on my right side. She then asked me to move my arms and legs in certain directions where we heard some clicks, akin to cracking your knuckles.

The sound was actually the muscle straining itself, as my muscles were tighter around some areas due to my job. Since I spend hours and hours sitting down writing away in front of the computer, these muscles are often in the same position for an extended period of time. 

Eva then explained thoroughly what was going on with my body, while referring to diagram of the muscular system. She showed me which parts of the muscle were tightest and which parts were the weakest, before proceeding to treatment. The manual therapy was carried out to help loosen up those thigh areas and kick-start the treatment.

After about half an hour of manual therapy, Eva showed me some quick and easy home exercises to counter my muscle tightness and weakness. I was instructed to carry out these exercises a few times a day, with a follow up assessment scheduled the week after to see whether things have improved.

A couple of days later I did go for a bike ride, and to my surprise my muscles felt slightly looser and more compliant. Although the bike ride was at the end of a day where I had carried out a lot physical work earlier, I found myself feeling more comfortable on the bike as well as having the ability to hold my power for much longer. I’m not sure whether it was a placebo effect or the treatment taking its course. Nevertheless, I did feel good even though I hopped on the bike after a tiring day. 

I do believe it is the treatment taking effect, but would probably have to spend some more time analysing it. My second session with Physiowerkz was designed to see whether the first session and the subsequent exercises helped make a difference; read about my follow up experience.

For more on Physiowerkz, you can log on to their website at www.physiowerkz.com