Strength Training For Cyclists With Dara Richman

Is it easy to motivate yourself to go for a ride, but difficult to get yourself in the gym for strength training? I think this is the case for many of us, which is why I asked Dara Richman–a physical therapist and owner of the workout app The Leadpack–to come on the podcast to talk about strength training.

We discuss why it’s so important for us to be strength training, how much we need to be doing, how to fit it in with our bike training, and much more. If you’re looking for a little inspiration to start or step up your strength training routine this winter, this episode is for you.

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About The Host

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @femme_cyclist

Full Transcript

Kristen  

Dara Richmond, thank you so much for being here today. We are going to talk about strength training. But before we dive into that, can you just start out by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Dara  

Yeah, sure. So, um, so my name is Dora, I am a physical therapist, first and foremost, that’s kind of my main background. And I still treat patients in person in Los Angeles, and I also have an office in the Bay Area. So I do PT is my background. 

Dara  

Before that I was in fitness and personal training. So I’ve had kind of a long background in fitness and strength training and things like that. And, um, and then I got into racing, you know, road racing, and triathlon and all that stuff kind of later in life. 

Dara  

And now I still do physical therapy. And my business is much more like niche down into PT, sports performance. And I work mostly with cyclists, runners, triathletes, that’s kind of my passion. And that’s those are my people. And I think it’s fun to work with them. 

Dara  

And so I do the injury prevention side of it with the PT, but I also do a lot of just the strength training side. And I think it’s like this huge field of kind of a lot of questions people have, like, I think everyone knows they need to be doing some of this stuff, but a lot of us aren’t or like can’t figure out how to put it into the program. So a lot of what I do nowadays is really help people navigate that. 

Dara  

And, and I do health coaching as well, and nutrition coaching, online and in person. And I think that’s kind of like, you know, my passion these days is, besides just treating injuries is really helping people, you know, seek out this like whole body health, like, we all you know, this cycling community, they’re generally speaking a pretty like knowledgeable, like interested in their health crowd, it’s just hard to put it all together and think everybody knows kind of what they need to do is just, there’s so many questions about how to do it. So I often now my job is to really just help people do that. 

Dara  

And like put those programs together, whether it’s for racing, or they just want to improve their fitness or lose weight or whatever, or, you know, get stronger. Yeah, so I kind of do a lot of things these days.

Kristen  

You do! Most of us probably know that we should be strength training. But if somebody’s listening, and they’re not already, they haven’t already heard all the arguments for it. Why, as cyclists, should we be strength training?

Dara  

Yeah, yeah, you know, I feel like this is, you know, to me, it’s like, I feel like I’ve said this 1000 times, but you know, for a lot of people, I just had a patient the other day, who’s like, well, I bike all the time. So like, that’s my strength training for my legs. 

Dara  

And I actually had to explain to her I was like, it’s not it actually isn’t really, you know, cycling is. If you’re a very deconditioned person, I’ll say this, that if you came from no activity and then started biking, yes, you would get some benefits and strength from that. But once you’ve really gotten into biking or if you’re a more avid cyclist, you’re not that’s not the same thing as lifting weights and strength training. So people forget that and they think they’re so healthy and fit because they’re doing all this cycling and they’re like, Well, I ride 100 miles and I’m so fit this and that. 

Dara  

But your body needs more than that. Right? Like that’s primarily cardiovascular fitness. And that’s great. And it’s you’re better than the majority of other Americans and people probably on the planet by doing that, but it’s still not enough, right? So you’re really you’re improving so many aspects of your health but there’s still so many more Um, that encompass good health. And it’s not just cardiovascular fitness, you know, I bike because, you know, it keeps me lean and this and that. 

Dara  

And I’m like, well, there’s, there’s other parts too, you know, maintaining healthy bone mass, right? Cycling does not do that at all, or muscle mass, like, these are things that, you know, if you really look at what’s happening to us, as we get older, you know, there’s bone density loss is significant for men and for women, but muscle loss is significant. And that is, every single person, man and woman, as we get older, we’re losing muscle mass every year. So over the age of 35, every few years, you’re losing about three to 5% of your muscle mass, and it’s not going to come back. And it’s going to stay there by just pedaling a bike.

Dara  

And so part of my job is to really explain to people like, Hey, this is this is life, this is what’s happening. But you have so many tools at your disposal to prevent that muscle loss, and bone density loss. And it’s it has to be more than just cycling, so, or running or whatever. 

Dara  

And so really, my job is just, you know, how can I make this? My, like, my mission these days is like, how can I make this as like, easy as possible for people? Like, as simple? Like, how can I get people on a program that’s like, you know, the hardest part is, you have to just, it’s the consistency of it, like you have to keep doing it, it doesn’t, you know, like, if you do it for a month and slack off, it’s, that’s really not how you’re gonna get the benefits over over time really improving your muscle mass, and bone density. And those are things that I mean, your your mortality risk is increasing, right? When you have those bone density loss for men, and for women, you fall and you break something like that is high risk. And that is a real thing for hip fractures. Outside of just biking, right? 

Dara  

So we’re really just thinking about, like, what can we do to maintain our health now, but then really thinking ahead, like, I want to be doing this when I’m at or AMD or whatever. And it really, there’s not a single person out there that I’m going to say, should not be actively doing some type of strength training. And, you know, there’s different ways you can go about doing that. But it’s ultimately to me, it’s, you know, getting on some type of basic program where you’re literally like lifting weights.

Kristen  

 So say, like me, I’m over 35 I’m already losing muscle mass. I haven’t already been strength training. Is it too late?

Dara  

Never too late. Yeah, I mean, if you look at like a lot of these studies on like, older populations, like 60 7080, like they can gain muscle mass, so they can do it, we can do it. Right. You know, that doesn’t mean you want to jump into some crazy, intense program. And oftentimes, especially for, you know, people who don’t have a strength training background, which, which has a lot of cyclists, or just a lot of people in general who like, they don’t really ever do any, like weightlifting, or whatever, I usually suggest, and this is the PT side of me, I always suggest start with the basics. You know, really, even if it’s some bodyweight exercises, meaning, you know, oh, I do some squats, some like air squats, and I do some planks and push ups and things like that, and then get that down. We’re, like, really understand, form, right? So you’re not gonna get injured and this and that. 

Dara  

And then once you have that figured out, you know, say that’s in a month or two months or whatever, could be longer, then then you can start to think about okay, am I going to hire a personal trainer? Or am I going to do one of doras programs? Or am I going to follow some other thing on YouTube or something? And then you can add weights to that, but it’s never too late, ever?

Kristen  

So you mentioned your programs. What are your programs?

Dara  

Yeah, so the stuff that I do now is, besides the physical therapy, I have a fitness like a cycling app. And really, it’s built out to answer this question. So when people because I would see these patients, and they’d get better and like, Oh, my knees better, blah, blah, blah. But then what they really also wanted, they’re like, Well, what do I do now? Like in the gym, like now that I’m better? Like, I don’t really have a program. 

Dara  

So  my app is really just strength and mobility programs for cyclists and they’re built out. You know, there’s like, there’s a bodyweight program right. So you start off with a bodyweight program. There’s a more advanced kettlebell style program. There’s a program geared towards mountain bike, gravel riders, and a lot of it is, you know, yes, you can get really if you really want to get specific and you want some workouts that are gonna really optimize your gravel riding or your mountain bike racing like my the app that I have, which is called lead pack. He has those programs in there. And there’s some free content and there’s some paid content, obviously. 

Dara  

And so some people are like, well, I want to get strong for my cross country mountain bike racing season. So I’m like, Okay, well, I’ll do this program that I have, it’s 8-12 weeks, whatever. And then there’s other people that I have that are just like, hey, I just need to do some stuff in the gym. And I know I need to do this, like, can you give me something that’s very short, for two to three times a week. And so I’ll give them like, either the, the body weight program, which which goes into some actual weights, at the end of it. And most of my programs on on that app that I use, really follow a pretty similar formula. And, and I always tell people, Hey, you don’t need to do my stuff, you can take this run with it, do your own thing. 

Dara  

But I really, for most athletes that I work with, and most patients, I really try to suggest that they get in about two to three times a week of some type of strength training, right? Now, that depends on how involved you want to get, like, if you just want to get crazy complex, and you want me to give you all these like kettlebell workouts, I can do that. But at the most basic, what that means for the majority of people who might be like listening, or just kind of hearing this stuff today is, you know, really kind of decide that you can dedicate minimum two times a week, right? 

Dara  

So I’m always suggested two to three times a week, minimum two to three times a week of some strength, like real strength training, and some stretching for about, you know, anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, right. And I think it’s totally manageable, I have yet to find someone who can’t find some way to get into 20 minute sessions, twice a week, I think it’s just a matter of prioritizing it, having something to follow, which is, again, why I made the app, I’m just like, just follow this. And then really, just being consistent with it, you know, like, just the same way that you would get on your bike three to four days a week, like just, you know, it needs to be that routine. And if it’s not people just slack off. Oh, and that’s the difficulty is like really getting people to understand that, like, it just needs to be this, like, you know, every Tuesday and every Thursday, I do the workout at home and I grab my weights or you know, every Monday and Friday, I go to the gym, and I do my little thing. That for me, like if people did that, I would be out of business as a PT. Seriously, you know, like, I wish that was the case. 

Dara  

I wish that, you know, more people just had this, like, these routines, because I think it doesn’t take a lot, you know, to kind of get some of the strength benefits to be not only stronger from just like a performance perspective, like be a faster writer, or, you know, better climber this or that. But just also like not have these little injuries that pop up for everybody, you know, happens to everybody. So,

Kristen  

So two to three times a week for 20 minutes. How do you fit that in with your on the bike training? And that’s one of the things that I struggle with most. Am I doing it on my off days? Am I doing it on my easy days? Am I doing it before or after my rides? What recommendations do you have? 

Dara  

It’s complicated, you know, and I and I work with people privately, and that’s part of what my job is, is to figure that out for them. Because the a the priority is the biking, right? So I’m not, I’m not I’m not trying to pretend like people are gonna, like, only want to do the gym stuff that I give them. So I understand that. 

Dara  

So the goal number one is, is the biking. And for most people, you know, even if you’re not, you know, following, you know, my exact program to a tee I give people two to three times a week. So again, minimum to most people have one to two harder intensity workouts every week. So you really for the majority of people that I work with, I’m giving them their gym days on a separate day from that. And I’m spacing it out enough that if I know that person has intervals, like say you have an interval workout on Wednesday, well, I’m really going to try to spread out the strength training, if it’s a really hard workout day so that it’s not right before that workout, right? Like I always tell people like what’s your priority, and most people have about, you know, one to two interval sessions a week, like they’re hard workouts, you want to be fresh for that. So if that’s your priority, then yes, what I’m giving you is the B and that’s the A so then I need to move things far enough away that it’s not really going to like, you know, thrash your legs for your workout. 

Dara  

So for a lot of people and I can tell you what I do so I tend to do one day a week and depends on the season again, changes seasonally to like this is an offseason. Sure. But if I’m if I’m training and I’m training hard, one day a week, I’m going to do probably a heavy lift day. meaning, I’m lifting heavier weights, I’m at the gym, and lifting like some, some pretty significant amount of weight and my legs will be tired by the end of it, and my legs will be tired the following day. And so I really kind of prioritize my rights around that workout because I really do want to get stronger and gain muscle mass. So for me that heavy lifting is important. And I push things further out from that. And then my two other workouts, they don’t need to be heavy lift days, right? So they might be squats and deadlifts and some core work but not so heavy that my legs will be that fatigued. So I might, I might put that other workouts. 

Dara  

So if you only have two a week, it’s really just kind of spreading it out, right? Spreading that it’s not interfering with and again, everybody’s different to some people are going to be sore for five days, you know, some people can go into a hard workout the next day, some people were very high level, I’ll put all their hard workouts on one day, and then let them have a whole rest day, right. So there’s no one answer to it. But the one thing I will say, because I hear this so often from cyclists, and this is like my like, number one takeaway tip is that if you can get through the first month, your body will adapt to the weightlifting and the strength training. If it’s your first week, and you do squats, even if you did a bunch of air squats one day and a bunch of like push ups one day, you’re gonna be so sore. And you’re like, I hate this. Oh my God, I feel horrible now for riding. Your body has not used to it yet, right. 

Dara  

So if you really can just suck it up for a month, really like a couple of weeks, your body will adapt, and you won’t feel as you won’t feel really fatigued much at all from the strength training, it won’t really affect you, but you really have to give your body like you just have to go into it knowing my legs are gonna kind of feel fatigued like you know, that’s where it comes into, like planning out your, your whole year, your season or like, you know, if this is an offseason right now, this is the perfect time to do this stuff, right? Yeah, here’s if you’re just gonna go on a three hour super chill, mellow ride. If your legs are a little tired, it’s not a big deal, right? It doesn’t matter when you program it in. But I always suggest, write it down and really start to think it through. Because when people don’t do that, they just don’t do it. Right. So I would much rather somebody say, Hey, I’m going to try Mondays and Fridays to do some weights and see what happens or, or if you know, your weekend is a big weekend where you like people tend to ride more on the weekends, then maybe Monday and Wednesday is good for you to do some weight training, right, and then give yourself the rest of the week to let your legs just settle in. So goes. I often do a workout on Friday, because I like to do three days a week, but my Friday workout. And you’ll see if you look at my app, that’s how a lot of the workouts are built out is Friday tends to be a lot of core work. And that’s intentional, because I know that I want my legs to be really fresh for the weekend. But most of the core work that I give people and that I do myself, it’s not really leg. Intense, right? So there might be one or two things where I’m like, bicycle crunches or something. But the beauty of that is like I can sort of sneak in another workout for people. 

Dara  

And it’s really not going to affect them on the bike. So I’m like, well, there’s no excuse, you have to do this. For Hey, like, everybody needs work or work anyway. So if I can kind of squeeze in that third day, it’s kind of like, well, you know, you have no excuse, because it’s really not going to make you that tight. I mean, your abs might be sore, right, you know, but it’s not going to make you tired for the bike. So you really have no excuse not to do it. Right. Right. Yeah. And you know, there’s a million ways to program workouts, I really think she got appropriate, like, if we’re really thinking, okay, this person wants to get improved muscle mass and strength gains, one day a week will not do it. There’s not enough of that progressive overload. 

Dara  

So I really suggest to people like you’re just gonna kind of be in this, like, endless loop of beginner dumb nowhere until you get until you ramp up some of the strength training to more than one day a week. And you’ll also probably feel kind of sore every time because your body hasn’t adapted to that load enough. So every time you go back to it, if it’s only once a week, you will probably feel more fatigued from it. Right? So you want your nervous system to adapt as well as your muscles, right to get to get bigger, stronger, and be able to accept that loads. So yeah, that’s my that’s kind of like my cheat sheet. answers like the two times a week and we’re more more is always better, but at least two is what I say.

Kristen  

It’s very interesting to me that you’re saying that you actually adapt and it doesn’t. You don’t have the same fatigue and soreness. Because in my mind, I guess incorrectly I’ve always felt like if I’m not sore after strength training, I didn’t work hard enough.

Dara  

Yeah, you know, I think that’s kind of a myth. And I think people sometimes confuse Dom’s, which is just that delayed onset muscle soreness with like, being the sign that you did a good workout. And that’s really not the case. I mean, it depends what your goals are. 

Dara  

So for somebody who is completely new to strength training, if I give them 30, air squats, and some push ups, they’re gonna be really sore, just from that tiny, tiny little workout, because they just haven’t. Now, if I had them do that over and over and over for four weeks, they’re gonna knock out like 100 Push Ups by the end, they’re not going to be sore at all. So for a lot of a lot of the time, it’s that initial adaptation phase where you’re going to feel probably a little bit sore. But not every workout is about being sore, right? Like, you know, I have a heavy day. And I programmed that into my schedule, and that heavy day, I might be sore, because I am intentionally working on improving my my max lifts, right? And so that’s where you get into really, the more specificity of workouts like, there’s a 10 rep max, meaning how heavy Can I lift something for 10 reps, and I might do an eight rep max or a six rep, meaning six times I’m gonna lift this as heavy as I can. And my goal with that is I want to get stronger. Right? So I will probably be a little sore from that. 

Dara  

But if I give somebody else you know, a workout that’s like, you know, like a Monday workout, I’m like, Okay, well, this is more mellow. This is more about muscular endurance, we’re not really building, we’re not going heavy. And I give them a couple of squats, maybe some bridges, maybe some, you know, single leg squats, and maybe some lunges, I don’t expect that person to be that sore. Especially because it’s probably not going to be a really heavy weight. Right? It’s more about just building maybe some core strength and some muscular endurance. And if they’ve done that workout enough times, they might not be sore at all. Right? Because it’s really the purpose of that workout is just kind of like refining and building a little bit off of, you know, maybe some some core work or some other things like that. 

Dara  

So yeah, I don’t I don’t think being sore is always a being sore is not always a good thing. Sometimes it’s actually a bad thing. And and that also doesn’t mean like you failed the workout. Right? It depends on the goal of the workout. If the workout was a heavy lift day, I would expect to be a little bit sore. But the other two days a week that I train on me and and I do jump rope and some high intensity stuff. I’m not sore at all. But I do it every week. Yeah. So I’m used to it now. 

Kristen  

So for most of us, cycling does not feel like a workout, right? Like we feel motivated. It’s exciting. It’s fun when something we enjoy. For myself, and I know a lot of others. Strength training and lifting weights does feel like exercise. How do you get motivated? Or how do you help inspire or make it more fun for folks who are kind of stuck in that place of just not wanting to do it not thinking it’s fun to do?

Dara  

You know, if I had an answer to that I probably have my app. No, I mean, I think, you know, the honest truth is, and I’ve struggled with this a lot is and that’s why that’s why I built the app, my app, is because I want it to be maybe not the most fun thing you’re gonna do. But the easiest to do and like just something that’s simple and short, and painless. I guess even though there’s a little bit of pain involved. Yeah. 

Dara  

So I mean, my my goal is sort of, well, I don’t know how much more fun I can make this. And we don’t know how much it’s never going to be as fun as cycling. And I get that. So I’m almost coming at it from the vantage point at this point of like, well, I’m a professional. I’m an expert in my field. Just trust me, you need this. How can I make this as painful as possible for you guys, because I know you don’t love it. But you know, I will say a couple of things that I enjoy. And if you if you get a chance to look at my app, most of the workouts are built out as circuits meaning like you’re it’s on a timer. It’s kind of fast paced. There’s not a lot of like really heavy lift stuff because I think when you get into some heavy lifting, it really requires proper technique and I would always suggest someone hire someone to just go over that in person. 

Dara  

My workouts do have weights but they’re really not going to be like your heavy heavy like Max Lift Workout. So they’re more built out, like bringing people up to like this a better level of strength. And then it’s up to them to kind of go even further with like, the really heavy stuff if they want to. But at least I feel like, if they’re doing some of the stuff that I’m doing, even if it’s in this circuit style circuit style is kind of what people think of when they think of like those hit workouts, where it’s like, it’s like 30 seconds of this, and then 30 seconds of this. 

Dara  

That, to me is exciting. I enjoy that style of workout. And so for some people, I think it’s more fun and engaging. Because it’s kind of like this fast change between like, Oh, I’m going to do mountain climbers for 30 seconds, my app has a timer on it. So like, I’m, it’s going off of time, a lot of it a lot of the time. So it’s like, okay, you’re gonna do push ups for 30 seconds, and then you’re gonna do planks, 30 seconds. And so there’s, there’s something about that kind of like cyclical circuit style that, I think is more fun. Um, the fact that you kind of click on an app, I think that’s also kind of fun. I’m open to suggestions, if you have other ideas to make it fun. I mean, I think music I don’t know, you know, like, it’s a struggle, it’s a struggle.

Kristen  

Where do you recommend working out? Should you be going to a gym or should you build a gym at home?

Dara  

So I honestly, I think you know, where we are at in the world right now is I think the majority of people that I work with, and myself included, kind of have this sort of hybrid thing going on, where they either had access to a gym, and maybe now they don’t, or closed, or they don’t know if they want to go back or, and so some people bought equipment at home and myself included. And then some people travel for work, and there’s like the, you know, the hotel gym. 

Dara  

And I tell people, you know, if you have access to the gym, that’s awesome. And I and I, especially the people that I’m working with individually, I’ll say, you know, one day a week, go to the gym, like there’s gonna be stuff at the gym, like, you’re not going to buy all this equipment, nor should you. But if you have a gym membership, I would say one day a week, go to the gym, and you knock out some some real stuff, because there’s going to be a leg press machine, a lat pulldown machine, like there’s a couple of like, basic pieces of equipment that are nice, you can use them, that’s where you can kind of add on some of the weight and there’s some relatively safe, you know, pieces of equipment to use. And then for the rest of the rest of the time do it at home, right like you don’t need or for the people who don’t have access to a gym. Everything that I do and everything that’s that I program and give to clients or that’s that’s in my app can be done with very, very little equipment. And I and I even have a whole section in there that talks about things that I would suggest people buy, like to build out your home gym, and and honestly, it’s not a lot, I think, you know, if you really think you’re gonna get in into it, yes, there’s, there’s some expensive equipment that I can suggest. And I have suggested people to buy, if they have the space or the time to really add weight to things like their squats and deadlifts. 

Dara  

If you’re like, you know what, I’m never going to be that person to which is totally fine, but you know, you need weights, then I then I will usually suggest people get a, you know, at the bare minimum, what I will often start people off with if they have nothing so that nothing at all, I’ll say, Okay, well, you need a yoga mat, obviously. And then I’ll suggest two to three kettlebells to start off with. And I usually suggest those first over free weights because the kettlebells are a little bit more dynamic. And so down the line, there’s a little bit more that people can do with the kettlebells. Whereas with the free weights, you’re a little bit more limited and also you buy them in pairs, whereas the kettlebell, you can actually do quite a bit with just one. 

Dara  

And for cyclists I really liked the kettlebells they also just there’s a little bit more of that grip strength because you have to grab and hold the kettle kettlebell. So I’ll usually tell people you know, I want you to get one light kettlebell one medium cuttlebone one a heavy and again that that knob that poundage is going to depend on the person but it could be like 110 pound kettlebell or eight to 10 pounds. So I’m thinking okay, I want to give somebody a little bit of upper body work, and they only need one weight. And then we give them a medium because they may need to do a little bit heavier stuff or they’re gonna get stronger and then I want to, and if they’re open to it, I want them to buy one heavy one, right? And that one heavy one might be a 40 pound kettlebell might be 50 pound kettlebell. But it’s something that’s, that’s real, that that person could then hold and do something like a squat. With so it’s like, you know, at least getting them to to three different weights. People will kind of figure out what’s appropriate for them. 

Dara  

You know, we’re just if you have access to a gym, just go to a gym, start picking up things and you’re like, Okay, do I think I could like, lift this? Could I use that? I can usually tell for most people like, just by looking at them or talking to them what I think weights they should start with. But yeah, find a kettlebell. I mean, most people have free weights. And if they already have that, cool, just start with that. You know, don’t you don’t need to go buy a whole gym for yourself, but you don’t need a lot of stuff. That’s so I’m like, Nope, can’t use that as an excuse. Nice try,  I can still give you a workout. Don’t worry.

Kristen  

I’m in like a free cycle swap thing. And all these people bought equipment, like during COVID. And now they don’t use them. And I’ve gotten quite a bit for my gym just doing that.

Dara  

I had what did I have somebody get from that? And I was like, Oh my God, give me that. I want one. See if there’s another one. It was something like, really valuable piece of equipment. It was like, snapped, you know, if you guys see that, I mean, if people see that stuff, and people are trying to grab it. Yeah, it’s kettlebells. Like, I love to use the, the wall balls or those like big balls. If you find one of those man, snag that thing up because there’s so many things you could do with that there’s so fun. Like, it’s just, you know, part of it. 

Dara  

I mean, that goes back to your question about making it fun is like, you know, I’m kind of a gym rat, I did that I was in the gym before I was a cyclist. So I like that kind of stuff. But, you know, you may find some piece of equipment that you just like, I get this all the time. People love the BOSU that’s like that. Yeah. And I’m like, well, it’s not super functional. Like, it’s fun, but you know what, if somebody who’s like super into it, I will build you a workout with the bosu. If you love it, you know, it’s like, you gotta go with what you’re enjoying. 

Dara  

And, like, I like the jump rope. So I do a lot of jump ropes. Then people are like, Oh my god, I love jump roping. You know, there could be things out there that it’s, it’s maybe never going to be as fun as riding your bike. But there might be things that are kind of fun. I mean, there’s so many weird pieces of equipment now. Like, the balance boards and the BOSU and the slam balls. 

Dara  

And I mean, every time I look around, there’s like some new thing. I’m like, Whoa, what is that? TRX you know, equipment and bells and 10 other things I probably can’t even think of, but if they’re fun, I mean, get it use it, you know, add it in the mix? That’s all good stuff.

Kristen  

You mentioned much earlier about injuries. What are the injuries and issues that you see cyclists have that could have been either prevented or addressed through strength training?

Dara  

Um, I think the most the two most common things that I see are lower back, and knees, and I see those all the time. And I think I think the one that’s probably the most easily, you know, managed, which I will Ironically, one of the ones that’s probably the more easily preventable ones is lower back stuff. Because, you know, to me, you know, I see patients and clients and you know, I look at what their their entire day is, it’s really, most people are sitting at a computer. So they’re flexed over a computer hunched over sitting all day, and then their sport is just even more sitting flexed over a bike, right? So when you really think about like the the the anatomy of the spine, like it’s not really meant to be hunched over like that all the time, like it’s not healthy, your spine needs to move, there needs to be some extension upright. We can’t just be crunched over like that. So, to me, that’s kind of one of the biggest things and it’s obvious, but people kind of just forget that, like, we’re not built to be flexed like that all day. So the more you can do to get out of that seated position. And for a lot of people, they’re like, Hey, I work like Like, like, I work, you know? Yeah. So for a lot of people, it’s managing more work breaks, walking around a little bit more mobility work more stretching the beginning of the end of the day, changing their work setup to a standing or sit to stand situation. Some of it’s just more postural cues like, hey, like don’t slouch like have you had an ergonomic assessment. That’s one of the first things I ask my patients who come in with lower back stuff because there’s no exercises that I can give you that’s going to fix you then being slouchy on your computer all day. The setup has to be appropriate the height the you using an appropriate backrest and having lumbar support. So I think lower back is kind of the, the one of most basic things that I, you know, suggest to people. Or I’ll ask people like, Do you have any? Do you have a regular routine? Do you do stretching or anything like that? No, never. You know, some people do, they’ll go to yoga, but that’s still not really like a set mobility routine. So that for me is like, hey, let’s just get you doing some more stuff that’s stretching and getting you out of this like flexed over position, right. So that’s kind of the number one thing that I see. And then. And I feel like a lot of that is preventable. Like, if people just had a little bit more movement and mobility in their spine, they wouldn’t be as susceptible to some of these injuries and lower back problems over time, because it’s usually an accumulated stress thing that’s happening with lower backs. 

Dara  

And knees is more complicated. Like, I don’t think there’s one thing that I can, you know, tell people to do. But I do see knees so often. And I think it’s probably one of the most frustrating things for patients and for people, because I can’t ever give someone like I get people asking me this all the time on Instagram, my knees hurting, or I get patients who email me like, my knees hurting. And I was like, What should I do? And I’m like, could be a million different reasons why, you know, like, yeah, I don’t know the person. I’m like, I’ve never seen you before. I don’t know what your alignment is, like, like, I have no idea if you got a bike fit boba. But, you know, the bike, the thing that I tell every patient that walks in the door, because most of them are cyclists and, you know, it’s it’s not usually like something from like, coming out of surgery or whatever. I tell most people that like, you know, we’re all we all have asymmetries, that’s totally normal. No, no, no one has leg lengths that are even no one has a pelvis that is even, you always have a stronger leg, weaker leg like that is everybody. And so what ends up happening, and why most people end up having these like knee issues, or one side of their lower back whatever is because we have these normal asymmetries, which is normal. And that’s everybody. When you put that little teeny thing that’s off, and you put that into a sport, that’s incredibly repetitive, like cycling and running, especially, you’re just really feeding into that asymmetry over a long period of time. So it’s that repetitiveness of that sport, that tends to just magnify something that’s pretty minut like minute ly off. So it would normally not be an issue. But because you’re a cyclist, and you ride your bike all the time, and you pedal a million revolutions, a little bit of that tracking that’s off, then becomes major knee pain. Right now, as you’ve done it, you’re doing 1000 billion trillion pedal strokes with something that’s kind of a smidge off and on everybody else wouldn’t really be a big deal. But you’re a cyclist. So right now it’s an issue. And it’s frustrating, because it’s rarely one thing. You know, I can’t just be like, Oh, well, everyone just needs to stretch their quads more. It’s not ever that it’s usually for them. And that’s why so many people, I don’t want to say fail PT, but they’re like, I’ve been to this for BT for 10 times. I never fixed it. And I’m like, Yeah, because it’s complicated. It’s often a lot of little things. And that’s the difficulty in my job is like, for me, it’s I love it, because it’s fun for me to figure it out. But it’s oftentimes kind of piecing together a couple of things that are responsible for that issue. 

Dara  

And people want this like one quick fix answer and like, well, it’s not that sorry. It’s like four things, you know, and then prioritizing, usually it it usually there’s like, the one big thing is like, okay, let’s just fix that. And then we still need to fix this, this and this, so that this doesn’t come back. But for a lot of people, you know, they think like, oh, they’re all broken, or something wrong with them. Like there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just an athlete. And like, that’s life, man. You know, over time, I’ve had the same stuff myself. It’s just, it’s just a repetitive stress injury, right? You do this enough. And something that’s not perfectly aligned is going to be talking to you, right? And for us, it’s our joints, right? We’re not we’re you know, the alignment of the biomechanics of your body are not 100%. So what that still kind of goes back to my original point is that like, I think if more people had some of those off the bike programs, the stretching and some of the strengthening stuff, that would probably clean up some of those little asymmetries right, naturally. 

Kristen  

Is the stretching part of your app as well?

Dara  

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And I think you know, people, that’s another question I get all the time, like, how much should I stretch? And I hate to, I hate to give such a vague answer, but everybody’s built so differently. Like some people are so flexible, and you know, you can see them, they can go into the splits. And some people have incredibly limited flexibility and just that’s just their bony structure or genetics or whatever, or just how they build muscle. And so I still try to suggest kind of like a general generic program. And it’s really the same thing that I do for the strengthening, I’m like, if you’re doing the strengthening two to three times a week, at minimum, do that, right. So every program that I do has a warm up and cool down. And it’s just basic, it’s not crazy, you know, exciting stuff, it’s really just, you know, opening up your hips and your back, and upper mid back. And you know, and running people through like, maybe a five to seven minute routine a couple times a week, that’s assuming that somebody doesn’t really have any injury or anything. I think that’s appropriate, just to kind of keep things you know, your joints need movement to be nourished, right? joints need movement, that’s how you lubricate the joint is by moving fluid in and out of the joint space. And that’s movement does that, right? You’re sitting static and laying down, that’s not happening. So the joints are not staying healthy. So the stretching and the mobility stuff, is, to me is a lot about kind of like keeping things fluid and supple, and not just like, tightened, and you know, static and, or exercise mode all the time. So, I think two to three times a week is like bare minimum? Um, you know, it’s, it’s so impossible to find research on that, because, again, everyone’s built so differently.

Kristen  

What have I not asked that you would still like people to know?

Dara  

I mean, I think, you know, my whole thing is really just get on a program. I don’t know if there’s any other. I mean, keeping it simple. Um, oh, you know, the only other thing I would suggest to people with about your like, when to stretch and how much to stretch is one of the reasons that I also suggest people do some mobility and mobility is basically just stretching, work like two to three times a week is because that sometimes is a really good opportunity for you to check in with your body and see if something is about to be injured.

Kristen  

Yeah, that makes sense. 

Kristen  

There’s that point in time where you kind of think, oh, that doesn’t feel right. And what happens is, people have that intuition. And they’ll feel it, maybe when they’re writing and they forget that with the right amount of also, you’ve forgotten that your back was hurting. Yeah, a lot of times those sessions where you’re stretching, is a really good chance to kind of just check in with your body and be like, Who is that like, ooh, that feeling good. Like, oh, my hip is kind of sore, like, who like that might be your chance to just, you know, like, clue in on something that potentially is turning into a problem or prevent it from turning into a problem.

Kristen  

That’s why I always really liked doing the foam roller. There are things that I wouldn’t have even really paid attention to and then I get on the foam roller, and I’m like, oh, that actually really hurts right there. 

Kristen  

Yeah, you know,the foam roller. That’s, that’s funny. You mentioned that as I get people asking me all the time, like, oh, when should I foam roll? Should I fumble after before? And again, that’s one of those things where, you know, you kind of gotta figure out what works for you. A if you hate foam roll, that’s fine. You know, I’m not trying to force people to foam roll. But but if you do like foam rolling, and you want to add it in, it’s a great way to do exactly what I just said, checking with your body get things moving, loosened up more supple. I think there’s benefits to doing this stuff. Like I said, pre and post workout. I don’t think it has to be either. If you’re working through an injury, I would probably be more like prescriptive with that. And all I really need you to do this after because of this. But if you’re just kind of in general, trying to just maintain some, some overall fitness and feel good. Yeah, like a couple times a week getting on the foam roller, I would be so fine with that. Versus just some other stretching routine or yoga routine or whatever. Because yeah, that’s like you you will you’ll you’ll feel stuff when you fall. And you’ll feel if I decide to you’ll be like, Oh, my left. Yes. Right. And like that’s, that’s good information. Because that’s telling you like some things that are going on with your body. Right. And it’s stuff so yeah, yay, to the foam roller.

Kristen  

I’ve got three final questions for you. But first, where can folks who would like to learn more about your app, your programs working with you as a physical therapist, where can they come learn more?

Dara  

Yeah, so I’m on every social media platform on the planet now. Okay. So I owe people message me all the time on Instagram. I’m at Daraa sports PT. Or just emailing me is also cool. If you have PT questions. You’re like, hey, what do you think about blah, blah, blah. I do virtual consults like all over the planet. So I do telehealth as well as in person. So you can email me Daraa sports pt@gmail.com. My app is called lead pack. It’s on Apple and Android. And it’s got a little like Wolf logo on it. There’s free there’s a, this is what I would suggest to people, if they’re like, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to start, if you download my app, so download the app lead pack. And then when you download it, there’s this free program. And it’s a 10 day intro to strength program. And I’m pushing it hard right now, because it’s kind of for people who are like entering offseason and are like I need to do stuff. Because it’s free, first of all, so just do that. And it’s really, you can kind of see how I structure things. And even if you just copied what I did, and like never did any worked with me, at least you’ll understand, like, what I do and why I do it. And you can kind of understand like, there’s some formatting to it. Like there’s a reason I’m building these workouts two to three times a week and how they’re built and the sequence of them. And some exercises I really suggest for cycling strength, but also just strength in general. Yeah, so you can check on my app. I love questions. Like if people have questions, like you can always message me, either way, Instagram or email or whatever. Yeah, I’m always always here as a resource. But those are I checked, and I’m on Facebook to as well. ADARA sports, PT, so I’m everywhere basically,

Kristen  

I gotta say to your Instagram, I mean, just that is a good resource.  You share lots of good information there.

Dara  

Yeah, I always tell people you know, there’s a lot of times when I send patients like a foam roll video, it’s from my Instagram, I’m just like, you know, I have stuff on my app. But if someone hasn’t, you know, paid for, like the full access to everything on my app, which is not that expensive. It’s like $20 or something. But there’s tons of videos on my Instagram. And it’s like, this is stuff I give my patients like this is real, like, just follow that. Yeah, right. And it’s sure and it’s the videos are always better, because you can just follow the video you know, that’s yeah. Yeah, so that’s definitely a good place for people to look for. Like, I have one coming up on lower back pain. I have another video coming up on nerve arm pain, tingling I have. I mean, I have a lot of like PT videos coming up. So there should be some good stuff.

Kristen  

Final three questions. The first one is what bike or bikes do you ride?

Dara  

Oh, so I just got a new bike. So I have my new bike as my Trek hard tail. I just got a procaliber. And I’m in love with it. It’s really fun. I haven’t had a hard tail in a long time. So it’s really been fun to kind of be on a hardtail I have a trail bike. And that’s my bigger mountain bike. And that’s my Juliana. My Joplin, which is a very, very fun bike, highly suggest if anyone’s looking, any ladies are looking for a trail bike. And then I have my road bike, which is the old Amira Specialized before they went all to Tarmacs, women’s specific bike, which I love my ride a ton. And then my last bike is my cross bike. I’m the last person who’s on a cross bike and not on a gravel bike.

Kristen  

Basically the same thing. 

Dara  

So thats my specialized Crux and this was the bike that I when I was racing cyclocross and I still love this thing. I just I still race cross occasionally. But it’s one of my favorite bikes. Actually. They’re all my favorite bikes.

Kristen  

Yeah, it’s hard to choose. Second question is What is your favorite? Or where is your favorite place you’ve ever ridden your bike?

Dara  

Oh, my gosh. I mean, so I took I haven’t really taken any bike tricks trips, except I went to Spain before COVID And it was one of the most amazing trips I ever did. And I had so much fun riding and Drona which is like the mecca of cycling and this is all rode bikes. So Drona and in Majorca, we’re probably two of the most beautiful places I rode. But I love Southern California. I love riding in the canyons, and Santa Monica is by my assault on the Bay Area has tons of phenomenal, phenomenal mountain biking and Marin County. I don’t know if I could pick just one

Kristen  

Final question is what’s your favorite thing about riding your bike?

Dara  

I would say you know, I love my group rides and I love riding with my friends. But I honestly maybe I’m a weirdo I love like riding by myself up in this like quiet Canyon. It’s just for me it’s it’s one of the only times where like I don’t have cell phone reception so I don’t have to worry about my phone. On, it’s just very, it’s just peaceful. Um, it just is kind of like meditative for me, it’s a way for me to like distress. It’s like therapy, you know, like, we all have our we all have our stuff in life. And so when I get on the bike, it’s just like, like all that stress and drama just goes away and I’m just kind of like you’re just like in the zone. So that’s, that’s definitely that’s what it is for me.

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