Preparing for the Cycling Seasonby Sarah Awe - Wednesday, March 5, 2014
As a native Floridian who has a fierce hatred of the cold, it will still be a couple weeks before I venture out for an outdoor ride in beautiful Northern Colorado. If you’ve already hit the road, kudos to you, you are braver than I! No matter your cold tolerance, it is important to have your body prepared before you take on longer rides. There are several common injuries that cyclists suffer from, and often times they are a result of trying to do too much too soon. How do we avoid this? Practice well and strengthen well!
Indoor spin classes are a good place to start. This will help with your conditioning and is a great place to work on your cadence. Your body will thank you for developing a good, efficient cadence. If there is too much pedal resistance while riding, you risk acquiring pesky injuries, particularly in the hips and knees.
I’ve mentioned getting your body ready. What does that mean? This means it is important, not only in cycling but for all things we do, to have a strong base in our core muscles. It makes life easier! It is also important to remember that “core” muscles are not only the “six pack” muscles. Core includes all things supporting our spine like transverse and rectus abdonminus, glutes, hamstrings, glutes, obliques, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, glutes, abductors, adductors and did I mention glutes? Glutes (gluteal muscles) are very important to get in good shape before hopping onto the saddle. Those large muscles that make up our derriere are too often forgotten in our daily activities, especially if you are forced to be seated behind a desk for large portions of the day. If our brains are not forced to think about these muscles throughout the day, how can we expect our brain to think about them while exercising? If the correct muscles are not firing it forces other muscles to kick in and start overworking, which can also lead to pain and injury. Two easy ways to ensure that your glutes and hamstrings stay active are by doing a Single Leg Deadlift and a Single Leg Hip Lift.
Single Leg Deadlift: stand on one foot, engage your abdominal muscles- knee slightly bent- keeping your back flat, leading with your chest, hinging at your hips, reach down and touch with opposite hand towards the floor just in front of your toes. Start with 10 repetitions on each side. When this becomes easy, you can add a small weight. Doing this on one foot will also help strengthen the stabilizing muscles of your ankle.
Single Leg Hip Lift: lying flat on your back, bring right foot in towards your rear end, right foot flat on the ground, left leg straight. Engage your abdominal muscles and glute muscles, push through your right foot and lift your rear end off the floor trying to keep your left leg parallel to and off the floor. Repeat 10-15 times on each side. Don’t be nervous if you feel like you are going to get a cramp, the second set will be better!
Now for those abdominal muscles!! I am of the opinion that the plank is one of the best exercises EVER! I’m a bit of a fitness nerd and get excited about all the options you have when doing a plank. You will never get bored! There’s the traditional plank, plank with a toe lift, plank with hand reach, side plank, side plank with a twist, I could go on but let’s start there.
Traditional plank: on your forearms and toes, hold planked position, back flat, don’t let your hips sag towards the floor. Keep your shoulders over your elbows to ensure you aren’t putting too much pressure on your shoulder joint and hold thinking about drawing your navel in slightly. When you can successfully hold this traditional plank for 60 seconds, time to move on to something more fun!
Plank with a Hand Reach: same as a traditional plank but you will place an object to reach towards (yoga block, dumbbell, bike pump, small child) approximately 12 inches in front of your finger tips. Keeping your weight over your elbows, alternate hands and reach out toward the object.
Side plank: this plank incorporates your obliques. On your right forearm, with feet stacked on top of one another, weight over elbow, lift your hips up as high as you can, opposite arm straight up towards ceiling and hold for 30-60 seconds. Switch sides.
Side plank with a Twist: same as a side plank but take the arm that is towards the ceiling, reach underneath your hip towards the wall behind you and twist back up towards the ceiling. Try not to over rotate and try for 15 repetitions on each side.
These are just a few ways you can work on strength and conditioning at home. When it is finally time to get out on the road, listen to your body and its needs! Have fun and stay safe!!