Improving efficiency for a cyclist is often paramount. The more power they can create with the least amount of effort, the faster they can ride for a longer period of time. So how can Pilates help?
1. Pilates will improve spinal mobility and alignment.
Many cyclists have low back issues because of the hours spent in less than ideal alignment – often in lumbar flexion. Ideally, we want our spine to be in a natural or neutral alignment. Neutral alignment is when all 3 curves of the spine – cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (low back) – are present and in proper alignment.
Not only is this the most shock absorbing position for the spine, it is also the optimal way to attain balance and places the least amount of stress on the body. A neutral spine also uses the least amount of energy to maintain, and optimizes your breathing.
With a consistent Pilates routine, you will be able to find this alignment in your body, regain spinal mobility, and strengthen your back muscles. This will equate to good posture on, and off the bike! The longer you are able to maintain good form, the more energy you will have to travel faster and longer. Remember, good alignment = more power!
2. Pilates will strengthen your core
A weak core can often lead to low back pain and can sometimes be the cause of tingling or numbness in your hands while cycling (i.e. placing to much weight on your hands rather than letting your core do its’ job!). Pilates exercises target your deep abdominal muscle: the transverse abdominis. This muscle is basically the Spanx (or girdle) of your abs. The transverse abdominis (TVA) main job is to stabilize the pelvis and low back before movement happens. A strong TVA will help you transfer force more efficiently through the muscles, rather than through your back and joints, thus aiding in the reduction of aches and pains (and injuries). A strong core will help to stabilize your body while riding, and better balance translates into better bike handling.
3. Pilates will improve your flexibility and mobility
Mobility is our ability to move freely without stress on the body, while flexibility is the range of motion that we have in our muscles. Think of mobility as how a joint moves and flexibility as the length of a muscle. Good mobility can assist your flexibility and vice versa.
Because of their position while riding, cyclists will often experience tight and/or short muscles such as in the hip flexors, neck, shoulders and pectorals. Tight muscles (or lack of flexibility) hinder your mobility and can lead to tension, aches, pain and injury. Flexibility and mobility are essential for overall fitness and vitality. Maintaining a good range of movement in your joints and length in your muscles, will allow your joints to remain healthy and fare better against normal wear and tear as they age. Pilates exercises involve dynamic stretching that, over time, will increase your flexibility and mobility.
As a cyclist, you think about ways to make your bike as strong, stable, nimble and fast as possible. Maybe to start improving your speed, strength, efficiency and endurance try thinking about improving your body instead and introduce Pilates as part of your routine.
“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.” – Joseph Pilates