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Increasing upper back pain with century training

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Increasing upper back pain with century training

Old 08-21-12, 10:19 AM
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Increasing upper back pain with century training

I'm 27 and in my second season of riding, training for my first century on September 23rd which is coming up fast. I'm averaging anywhere between 70 and 110 miles per week, but I'm just starting to really extend my long rides. I've got maybe five 50 mile+ rides under my belt so far this season. Once I start to hit these distances (its happened as early as 30 miles in on a flat ride), I start to have some pretty bad pain in my upper back while on the bike, mostly centered between my shoulder blades but also spreading out a bit across my shoulders. It's getting to the point where I'm much more worried about my shoulders handling the century, rather than my legs. I do try to switch my hand position frequently between the bar and the hoods, although I'm rarely in the drops (there's a fit issue there w/ my saddle, which I'll deal with later).

Is this back pain just a normal thing to happen as rides get longer? Do I just need to train more at long distances, or is this a strength thing, or a fit issue? I don't have a lot of upper body strength, but I'm thinking its more likely a fit or training issue. I'm not able to afford a professional fitting at this point in time. Is there a general rule of thumb of what kind of fit change you should make if you have pain in your upper back?
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Old 08-21-12, 10:25 AM
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Consider getting a pro-fit.
And check your local library for a yoga DVD that focuses on your back. Or if you can bear the thought of relaxing in a roomful of fit, sweaty, scantily clad women, you can always stop by a yoga studio.
Both did wonders for me, and the stretching & breathing made me faster too.
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Old 08-21-12, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by ladyroadie
I'm 27


I have saddle sores older than that.

FWIW - I had more tension in my shoulders/upper back when I had my bars up. Lowering them helped. YMMV.

Last edited by SCochiller; 08-21-12 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 08-21-12, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by SCochiller

FWIW - I had more tension in my shoulders/upper back when I had had my bars up. Lowering them helped. YMMV.
Same here.
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Old 08-21-12, 12:42 PM
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I will only share my experience and it relates to fit. Long rides expose poor fit issues.
Without seeing you on the bike...again for me, sore upper back is due to too tight a cockpit and too low a handlebar position.
If your arms are more underneath you versus more horizontal, they will tend to put a lot of stress into your shoulder and traps which go to the neck.
Our heads are heavy and even sometimes dead weight and holding them up taxes the upper back and neck.
You mentioned you are strong...push ups help also.
Experiment with more sadddle setback, a longer reach to the bars and a higher handlebar. I routinely ride 50-60 miles and this formula works for me.
If you post your height and inseam, saddle to bar drop and saddle tip to center of handlebars, I can comment a bit better on your general fit.
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Old 08-21-12, 02:01 PM
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Your need to focus on getting the whole body in shape for riding long distances. Deltoids, elbows, the core muscles, etc. they all have to be in good shape or they will give out before your legs do. Holding that helmet clad melon up for that distance is tough also. So don't forget the rest of the body in your training.

I notice you are in DC. Would this be the ride you are training for? https://www.backroadscentury.org/

It looks like a nice ride. I live in Richmond, VA. I do this one every Sept. https://www.riverride.org/

Check this one out and mark it on your calender for next year. I did it this year. Very well organized and executed! Great scenery as well. https://www.stormingofthunderridge.com/

Last edited by seypat; 08-21-12 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 08-22-12, 07:59 AM
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Thanks for the replies, everyone! I'm a bit confused as to whether I should try moving my bars higher or lower, but I might try some general body conditioning and strengthening...I know I've let that slide as I've been focused on increasing miles and leg strength.

Seypat, yes I am training for back roads. I'm just hoping it's not too hilly for a first century!
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Old 08-22-12, 09:28 AM
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You will have to let us Mid-Atlantic people know how that ride goes. I have a friend that is riding in the Backroads.

As a follow up to your post topic, last year I rode as much as possible and not that much other training. This year I decided to not ride as much and add a lot more overall body fitness training. I do a couple of bootcamps each week and other things besides the riding. The difference is night and day. My times may not have improved dramatically, but I am not limping to the finish line now. I used to dread the last 40miles or so but that has not been the case this year.
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Old 08-22-12, 09:30 AM
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Do not forget to work out the rest of your body. I ride in the drops 80 % of the time and it never bothered me even at the end of a metric century. There is a big difference in overall fitness in diversifying. Resistance, flexibility and cardio training should all be part of a fitness regimen. The fun of riding makes it too easy to spiral into specialization (unless of course you wish to really excel at one particular thing and suck at most things). So get some back, shoulder and core exercises in. Pull ups are good! Weighted pull ups are even better!
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Old 08-22-12, 09:37 AM
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Lowering the bars worked for my wife's upper back pain. Tops of her bars are ~5cm below the top of her saddle. For a while she kept trying higher and higher, but that didn't help.
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Old 08-22-12, 09:39 AM
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Sounds like the classic case of locked up elbows and shrugged up shoulders. This puts a lot of weight (read force) into your upper back.

Bend your elbows and drop your shoulders - this engages your core more and takes a lot of weight off your hands, arms, and shoulders. This of course, can't be done if your fit it incorrect, usually typical of a stretched out fit due to large frames or long stems.
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Old 08-22-12, 09:55 AM
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If you aren't sure what to do, a fit is the best way to go.

Keep in mind that adjusting one thing is going to have an effect somewhere else. For example, if you raise your bars, you're changing the angle of your torso, and this may require you to adjust your saddle height.

Thus, it is possible that you could adjust something that makes it worse, or causes issues somewhere else, without realizing it and without knowing what's causing what. A good fitter should be able to avoid that problem.
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