As the warmer weather arrives, many of us may be inspired to pull out the old bicycle, brush off a helmet and take a beautiful ride outdoors, and many of you more disciplined cyclists probably never took a break over winter at all!
As you get motivated and jump back in the saddle, be conscious of the effects this has on your body. Most of us are aware of the endless benefits of exercise and how our bodies were designed for such physical activity, but hours of hunched shoulders, over extended necks and shortening of hamstrings and hip flexors takes its toll after time, perhaps you will even feel it after your first ride of the season? Cycling, like many other activities, is a repetitive movement that recruits global muscles to propel us along. Let’s talk about what we need to do to balance out the never ending round and round of those poor little legs and how Pilates is a wonderful tool to do just that!
Common aches, pains and injuries experienced by cyclists include:
– Tight hamstrings
– Tight hip flexors
– Stiff lumbar spine
– Rounded shoulders
– Jutting chin.
So, how do we combat these things?
Hamstring flexibility and stretching in general is a great place to start. I know most men out there hate the “S” word, but keeping muscles not only strong but also flexible is key to a longer lasting body and more efficient ride. Think about how many hundred or thousand times your hamstrings (and other muscles) kick in to move your bike pedal around on a long ride, to prevent these muscles from getting tighter and tighter, we must stretch! Same deal goes for hip flexors that pass through the pelvis and attach onto the lumbar spine, these guys work a LOT during cycling, finding adequate length in the hip flexors aids in reducing tightness in the lower back and prevents our hips from getting tight.
Some great Pilates exercises for cyclists include:
– Pelvic curl or bridging: this simple exercise opens up the front of the hips while strengthening the Gluteals and Hamstrings. Try a single leg variation for more challenge.
– Leg circles: On the reformer this lovely movement will work on hip mobility, strength, flexibility and pelvic stability all at once!
– Arm series on the roller: Great for opening out the chest and lengthening the spine after being hunched over bicycle handlebars. You can also use the roller to release ITB that will no doubt be VERY tight on any cyclist.
– Back extension: the list here is endless. Again anything that gets the mid, upper back engaged and working to counteract the roundedness present during a ride. Keep it small and simple.
Above all of this, any good Pilates workout is going to work at strengthening your core which in turn gives you a stronger foundation to pedal harder for longer and much more efficiently. It is easy to see any rider that starts to fatigue will lose stability in their pelvis, moving their hips from side to side, trying to find strength anywhere they can to propel them on.
Strong core = efficient movement. We want to work smarter not harder, right?
So it’s a no brainer really, even if you’re only a casual rider, there really is so much to gain by training not just on the bike, but off it as well. See you all in the Pilates studio!
(Check back soon for videos of the exercises listed above.)