Hammered hips

Am I alone in having unicycling wreak havoc on the hips?

Maybe it’s a conditioning thing - or maybe it’s just me with screwed up hips.

I have been riding for many months now pretty regularly. The thing is I have been going to a nearby high school running track and doing laps. Static mounts more than 70% first try… All is great there - fun and great exercise.
But then I almost never have to make a turn there - not a real turn.

To mix it up, I took to the streets and was working on maneuvering around more normally and making turns, etc. and BAM! That night I knew something was up - next morning hard to even walk. It resolved with ice and rest in about three days - and I figured I must’ve done something weird. So, again I tried taking it a little more easy - BAM. Same thing - call in sick the next couple of days. Now my wife won’t let me ride because she’s tired of waiting on me whilst on an ice bag!

What gives? Maybe I’m just destined to only do the 440 track? Depressing thought …


Raise your seat.

Oh man, is that all there is to it?
How much should I raise it do you think?
Thanks Killian!

A friend and I were talking about yoga. He said that it is common for the hips to be the center of bodily stress, and that it was desirable to release the tension in the hips. So, maybe you have a lot of tension in your hips. Maybe a yoga instructor could help you.

Based on the picture of you riding, it doesn’t look like your seat is ridiculously low; I would still, as an experiment, try to raise the seat.

Learning to unicycle, for me, has involved at different times, over-stressing different parts of my body, then later being able to relax them a little bit more. For example, when I learned SIF, my balance was not good, and as a result I put a lot of stress on my forearm and hand. Now that my balance has improved, I can perform two-handed SIF, which really relieves a lot of stress. Another example: as a beginner, I felt like I was pulling a lot of muscles in my rib-cage, due to the violent jerking around I was doing to keep balance. That stopped.

So, maybe at this particular point in your unicycling, the hips are the over-stressed part of your body; perhaps your hips are currently doing more than their fair share on the work. That could change, hopefully soon. In the meantime, get better. Later, you can practice some range-of-motion stretches, and try to avoid any sudden, jerky motions from your hips, while unicycling. Good luck getting over this hump!

Your seat doesn’t look overly low, but as suggested, I think it’s worth a try.

The short answer, is NO, in general unicycling doesn’t overly stress the hips and it’s not like every rider will develop this problem. Unicycling does stress lots of muscles, and more than anything uses stuff that you may not have used ever in your life (over many many years if you’re no longer a teenager).

Beyond that, I think there are two possibilities:

  1. you have some kind of pre-existing injury or generic weakness in this area and your hips simple can’t handle so much stress. In his case, you would just have to find the limit and not exceed it, and otherwise try to strengthen other muscles to compensate.
  2. probably more likely: like most sports-related overuse problems, you did too much too fast. As the muscles and ligaments are stressed in new ways, the body naturally strengthens them (this actually occurs by damaging the muscles by creating little tears in the fibers, which the body then rebuilds stronger), but this takes time only occurring gradually and you can’t do too much or the damage is too great that the body cannot handle it.

For a totally new use/movement/stress, it can take the muscles a few months of training to build up strength and the ligaments take even longer (e.g. this is while joggers get shin splint so often, from increasing running too fast and the ligaments get overstressed). I forgot the exact “number”, but in general only increase training distance/time by 10% per week. This means if you’ve never stressed your hips like this, then on the first day, you should only do it for maybe 5-10 minutes, and then let your body recover for 2-5 days, then increase another 10%. If you have no reaction, meaning pain or swelling, then continue and maybe increase a bit more. At the first sign of too much, reduce and allow 3-5 days of recovery.

While no requiring ice, I’ve presently got the same thing with overdoing it: I’ve ridden my 36er 2+ hours/day the last 5 days, with yesterday being an awesome muni ride. I have an ACL-reconstruction in my right knee and today my knee is swollen. Muni with the 36 is just huge on the knee stress and I have to let the knee recover. The good news, is that next time I should be able to do a little bit more. Maybe not a lot more, but just a little.

Sounds to me like if you really want to do more unicycling, it should be possible and it should just be a matter of finding out how to train and build your strength gradually and never overdoing it.

As an argument to your wife, you can rightly say that in the end it will make you way way fitter, stronger, healthier and injury-resistant (not to mention happier and more balanced).

Good luck and Hope that helps!

Thank you. You bring up excellent points and have an excellent idea about the yoga thing. I have never done any yoga - probably time to check it out. May have to get the inflammation down a bit first :slight_smile:

Sorry - what is SIF?

Thank you MUCFreerider for the thoughtful comments. I appreciate it. I would really like to continue to develop and find much frustration in setbacks.

I think maybe I was too enthusiastic. I really like unicycling. It’s so dang much fun! Plus I do need an excuse to get more active… 55 year old techie who’s spent a lifetime in front of a computer keyboard too much here … :slight_smile:

The feedback has been encouraging and supportive. I appreciate it. I’ll hit it again after I heal completely - and then go more slowly. Definitely research the benefits of yoga to help support my goal as well.

BTW - this pic was taken the day I put on shorter cranks. I had a bit of a challenge free mounting the new setup so I did lower the seat that day a bit to help out. It is higher now - probably about an inch higher than this pic.

Awesome forum!

Yeah, unicycling is the perfect fix for my office tech job sitting in front of the computer screen programming all day. I used to have back problems, but not since I started unicycling.

I’m no expert, but from my experience, it feels like shorter cranks stress the legs and knees more and longer cranks call for more hip usage, the reason being that you can do more side-to-side motion on the long cranks. So maybe try the shorter cranks? (although it could be the opposite as shorter cranks requires more raw strength)

Yeah, you gotta be patient, I think, but don’t let it totally discourage you. Think of it as troubleshooting a computer problem and trying to diagnose the source problem may take a while (de-installing this and re-installing that, etc.)


‘SIF’ means “seat-in-front”. It is a good upper-body workout; you probably want to learn it on a 20" unicycle, rather than the larger 24"(?) I saw in the picture you posted. SIF involves using different muscle groups, and it could be a way to take the pressure off your hips.

I didn’t see this mentioned but road/trail camber messes with my hips.

First off I am 56 and you are not alone. I have noticed that lately since I got back to unicycling regularly my hips have hurt a bit too. I have found that I have to remember I am not 25 anymore and to pace my work outs. How far have you been going? Maybe cut down the time on the uni as you get accustomed to street riding and turns. I find it helps if I take motrin before I go to bed. Like you are doing… anti inflammatory. I wonder sometimes if it is just age rearing it’s ugly head :slight_smile: . Hang in there, and if your wife asks how you feel, the answer is “great”… or she may not let you ride! Hope it gets better!

My case was the other end of spectrum. I had this nagging left hip problem that had been reoccuring from in the recent past 3 years. In fact, my whole body’s been thrown out of wack, i swear.
Remarkably last year’s start of unicycling has gotten rid of it. I guess i must have threw it back into alignment. Same with my back and right shoulder, as i remembered clearly after a good UPD. I swore, it was better than going to the chiropractor. I think death will find me much sooner if i quit unicycling, with all my problems i had creeping up from sedentary lifestyle.

I ride majority other times, with 165 mm on my 26er and 36er, long cranks are ok for me, maybe because of the fact that I havent tried shorter cranks, and had gotten usef to them.
For me, the roads don’t have enough camber so I go in searching for hill rides to ride sideways and practice more camber riding. I find it a good practice and improves my balance, with no hip pains.
When i have ridden too intensely for that day, i am better knowing to take 2 or 3 days off for a little recovery. But if i have a long persisting soreness, then i know i have to get back on the saddle to get rid of the soreness. Yeah, i tell people, my uni riding gets rid of my soreness, for me it definitely does.

I hope you can find the root to your problem and are able to continue riding;)
Tell your wife, in the long run she might not have to worry of you needing any potency pills:D
When you end up with legs and stamina of a stallion.

Yeah, me too. I wonder if the track where the @uniwheel has been riding has some camber in it. The when he went to ride on the road, the surface was sloped in other ways… Bang! Hip pain.

@uniwheelDo you always ride the same direction on the track?

Possible ride the opposite way and see what happens?

Probably not the solution, but just an idea…

Do you do any soft tissue work? If not, it might be a good time to start. I’m only 35, but I don’t think that I would still be participating in sports at a competitive level if I didn’t occasionally roll around on a foam roller or lacrosse ball. 'Just something else to think about. Good luck!

At least in distance running, you don’t aim for 2-5 day recoveries, but for one day (or none). Easy (!!!), frequent stress is much easier on your body than large stress with long intervals inbetween. Powering through your pain is rarely a solution: If you really succeed, you just get blind to a vital warning system that your body provides.

And you may want to consider cross-training if you don’t already.

So instead of lying to your wife (tsss :o)), better get to know your body and listen how much exercise it’ll take. Yes, it’ll slowly improve, but… slowly!

That being said, I('ve) recently had slight hip issues for the first time in my life. Not sure if it was from unicycling… Incidentally, a doctor had told me a few months before that I had a hip problem (that I had never felt) although another doctor passionately disagreed. While two physiotherapists had each their own opinion. Oh well… Anyways, if it should persist, maybe consider consulting a professional?

Good luck.

Yeah, I was a little too short there.

In general (for running/cycling), yeah a cycle of 2-3 days of daily training followed by a light recovery day or occasional total rest day is generally recommended and what most professionals do (ok, I admit that I’m not up on the very newest training techniques).

I guess I was trying to say, if you are already experiencing pain or swelling, then 2-5 days of rest is probably in order. And yes, pain is your guide if you can do more or have to scale back.

Thanks for all the comments. Nice to know I am not alone.

Interesting thought about the camber. I had never considered that. The running track does not have any discernible camber. I always go around counter-clockwise with the other people so going the other way would be a worthwhile experiment.

I like the idea of the foam roller. I assume you mean rolling on my side. I wonder how much that would loosen me up - perhaps increase circulation, flexibility, etc. Hmmm.

I’ve worked up to unicycling for about 45 min on the track in the morning before work - about 2 to 3 times a week. I’ve been at it sporadically for a few months but now that the weather is shaping up I have been getting into it more and hitting it more frequently. It’s a reasonable assumption that I’ve been too enthusiastic. I recently got my nightrider (been on a 29") and was looking forward to a fun Summer of riding!

OK, it’s been ten days and I’m feeling the itch. I think I’ll sneak out at dawn (the Boss sleeps in) and hit the track tomorrow. Gotta get back on - I think I’m hooked. :slight_smile:

Hello Uniwheel, I suggest you check the angle of your seat. If it’s too acute it may result in you cycling with your hips thrust too far forward or backward.

Oh, good point. Man, is this too high in the front?

It’s always been like this … hmmm. I could esily level it off to see if that helps.

It looks ok, but it’s worth trying a few adjustments to make sure that you have the best setup for your own comfort.

When turning it’s best to turn your whole upper body into the turn so that your face is pointing in the direction of your intended turn. If you only use your hips to turn the unicycle then your hips may become strained.

Hope this helps :slight_smile: