Thursday, February 26, 2015


For almost 2 years I've been having back pain. It took me about 9 months to figure out that it was from cycling (I blamed various things at first, like my mattress).

I went to a physio who gave me some exercises. I hated them because doing them correctly was really tricky. I noticed that one of them was like lying on the floor and pretending to swim, so I just started swimming for real instead. Swimming and better posture at work mostly fixed the upper back pain but I continued to have lower back pain. As a result, I could only cycle 2 or 3 days per week.

A few months ago, I went back to the physio to do a bike-fit, thinking that if I sat differently on the bike, it would fix my back. He said that the bike wasn't the problem. He told me that my lower back was lacking flexibility, that the vertebrae were locked and that I needed to stretch. He gave me different exercises for my lower back. These were not as hateful as the previous set but they were still annoying.

Then a friend told me about Sworkit, an app that makes it easy to do exercises casually, whenever you have some time. It comes with a bunch of set routines, with videos of how to do each exercise and you can do 5 minutes at a time, with 30 seconds for each exercise. Inside the Stretching secton I found "Back Stengthening". For the first while there was a bit of clicking and popping in the lower back as things freed up. After about a week of doing these 2-3 times per day, I was back cycling every day without pain!

That's a fantastic result for me. I had been worried that I would have to give up cycling. Taking the train is a little slower but reasonably comfortable but I fear what would happen to me with free lunches and no exercise. So splashed out the $1 for the Sworkit Pro to say thanks.

I learned two things from this.

  1. Stretching matters. I've cycled everywhere for almost 30 years but I'm still a fairly casual cyclist. I try not to break a sweat (not possible in Japanese summertime!) and I just go at a comfortable speed. I have never warmed up before getting on the bike and I still don't but at some point during the day it's good to stretch properly. Perhaps that's just getting old.
  2. The mediocre thing you do regularly is way more effective than the perfect thing you never do. The stretches in Sworkit were not tailored to my problem but the app makes it fun and easy enough that I do them 2-3 times per day. The tailored exercises were annoying enough that I was only doing them once every 2-3 days. I've had the same experience with Japanese. The manga that I enjoy reading is clearly inferior to the textbook that I never open from some abstract language learning point of view but in practice, you can only learn from the things you do, not the things you don't.

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