I live in the far-north suburbs of Chicago and some of the greatest medical schools in the nation are located just a short drive from my house. I’ve been able to a lot of spend time with several young medical students and I have to tell you they are the brightest people I’ve ever met in my life! However, as brilliant as these med students are, they are never going to learn everything about medicine (and they will all quickly tell you that). Even physicians who have practiced for many years will sometimes have trouble diagnosing conditions they are not familiar with. Unless your physician specializes in sports medicine they are probably ill-equipped to deal with some of the routine problems cyclists encounter. The one book that has helped me more than anything else with medical and physical problems related to cycling is Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists.
While the title of the books says “complete medical guide” it really deals more with “physical therapy” than with medicine, but that is fine with me—diagnosing medical problems from just reading a book a few entries on WebMD can be rather dangerous.
The first four chapters of this book deal with how to properly fit your bike by adjusting saddle position, handlebar position and cleats (or pedals). In my opinion, the majority of medical problems cyclists encounter begin a poorly fit bike. Pruitt explains how to find your ideal position on the bike and this alone is worth the price of the book.
The second section of the book deals with “Remedies For Cycling Injuries” and it covers the majority of things that cause us pain, such as patellar tendonitis, back pain, Achilles tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, saddle sores, and road rash. Pruitt not only explains the cause of these problems, but offers suggestions on how to overcome them.
The last section of the books deals with “Getting The Most Out Of Cycling” and discusses issues such as overtraining, weight loss, performance testing, developing a training program, stretching and rehabilitation.
While this book is very thorough, there are a few things it does not cover, such as cold weather cycling (something I tend to spend a lot of time doing). I have yet to find a book that deals specifically with winter cycling—most of what I know about this topic has come from trial and error (a lot of error) and from reading some of the “adventure cycling” books where experienced cyclists tell you about how they overcame problems with things like hypothermia and frostbite.
One section of the book I do disagree with is the chapter on “Health Maintenance” (chapter 15). Pruitt devotes just five short paragraphs to vitamin supplements and his basic opinion is that cyclists “get all the vitamins they need from their daily meals.” However, in the next chapter (“Aging and the Cyclist”) he does mention the need for older cyclists (you know who you are) to take omega-3 fatty acids, acetyl-L-carnitine and absorbable diindolylmethane (DIM) for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Reasonable people can disagree, but I am a firm believer in vitamin supplements—and if you don’t like the idea of taking supplements, well, don’t take them.
Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide For Cyclists is published by VeloPress and retails for $19, but you can find it on Amazon.com for around $12. This 6″x9″ paperback book is well illustrated with photographs throughout and has 224 pages. This book will benefit any cyclist, regardless of how long they have been cycling—from “weekend warriors” to distance cyclists.