Pilates and Cycling
It is no secret that cycling has become a very popular activity in the last few decades. The sport can be seen to be enjoyed by many all over the world. From the African plains to the mores in Wales many professionals and nonprofessionals have taken up the two wheeled challenge. Considering how diverse the sport is it’s no wonder, there is a cycling activity for everyone. From off road cycling to time trials, from a weekend social to the professional, cycling does not discriminate. As we have become more and more sedentary it seems fitting that cycling appeals to our inner neanderthal that craves the outdoors, fresh air and in some cases a thrilling challenge, a goal to conquer. It just so happens Pilates, being the customized discipline it is, has a lot to offer your avid cyclist, no matter his or her taste. In this article we shall look at the posture habits of a cyclist, common injuries associated with cycling and of course how Pilates can give you a cycling edge.
Let’s start by looking at one’s posture whilst cycling. The spine is hunched forward, shoulders rounded, elbows bent, neck sticking out, chin poked forward and the legs are feverishly pushing the pedal with the hips shortened and the knees bent. Does this picture sound familiar? It is, and that’s because it is not dissimilar to our daily seated position in front of the computer or in our cars. The only difference is that our legs are still.
So we all know exercise is good for us, being outdoors is great and increasing your cardiovascular fitness is also very good. However issues and injuries arise due to the over and under use of muscles. Cycling is a good option, in fact any form of exercise is a good option as long as one counter trains to create balance. Basically you can do whatever you enjoy well into old age if you move from your powerhouse and if you move in a balanced fashion.
Having read the above paragraphs you can see why cycling on its own with the amount of sitting we do could lead to some unwanted posture issues and injuries.
Common Cycling Pains
Our posture is how we hold ourselves against gravity. As said above the cycling posture is very similar to our every day seated positions. The saying goes “you are what you eat”, you are also a product of how your body moves or does not move. Movement is good, but movement in multiple planes from a controlled point (Core or Powerhouse) is even better. What are we talking about here? We are saying one of the answers to reduce common cycling and everyday pains is to always counteract movement with the opposite movement with control and precision. For example: in the cycling position your spine is rounded over the handlebars, the chest is tight as well as your shoulders. To counteract this repetitive movement you want to open the chest and strengthen the back. Much like those who do not exercise, cyclists struggle with lower back pain, knee issues, tight hips and hamstrings. Upper body strength is often neglected as all the focus tends to be on the lower body.
How Pilates Helps
The good news is Pilates not only works to balance out the over and under use of muscles but it always works from the powerhouse. All energy and movement in Pilates emanates from the core. You want to strengthen this area as it supports all of the bodies extremities. It is the strength or lack of strength that determines how efficiently we resist gravity in the pushing and pulling of movement.
Pilates can help release and lengthen the tight muscles that are being overused and strengthen those that are being underused. Most Pilates studios offer group classes on the reformer equipment, as well as other equipment options in private sessions that assist in creating overall balance in the body.
In addition the principles used in Pilates are of benefit to all as they help to create focus and concentration. Long distance and competitive cyclists will benefit greatly from the disciplined nature of Pilates. Your time trial cyclists require a degree of balance and coordination to ride at great speeds around a track on two rather skinny tires.
In summary Pilates is a great addition to support and enhance one’s cycling as it creates balance which is key to injury prevention. The principle of all movement emanating from the powerhouse as a point of stability before movement is integral to performance in activities.