On Thursday I made my way with my friend Helen to a pilates class, which was designed with cyclists specifically in mind. As you are aware I have signed myself up with two lovelies (Helen and Laura) to take a 24 hour endurance ride in August from Newcastle to London covering over 310 miles and so I am keen to do all I can to be in optimum condition before I undertake this. I had heard before of yoga and pilates that were specific to running and so when I heard from Anna at Animated Physiotherapy that she was holding a pilates for cycling workshop I signed myself up immediately.
Pilates aims to strengthen the body with particular emphasis on core strength, which in turn can improve general fitness and well being. The benefits of pilates, on a regular basis, can include improvement in posture, muscle tone, balance, stress relief and I have heard of runners and cyclists incorporating pilates into their schedule to compliment training whilst improving body strength and flexibility and also reducing risk of injury. As it is low impact there is very little risk of injury and it caters to people of all abilities.
Anna is a fully qualified physiotherapist and pilates instructor and a keen athlete herself having competed for the GB Masters Swim Team at international level. She is also a triathlete and so has current experience from cycling herself to know first hand the benefits from pilates as it is part of her routine.
The session lasted for 1.5 hours. It started with a talk from Anna that included information about how to reduce the chance of injury and increase efficiency on the bike. The workshop itself had 12 of us taking part (including Anna) and during the talk we found that amongst us there were different types of cyclists with some who took part in track cycling, time trials, triathlons, road cycling and endurance events. This was followed by a 1 hour pilates class focussing on the muscle groups used when cycling. At the end there was an opportunity to ask Anna any questions we had.
Anna spoke a lot about how you should use your core when on the bike and this is something i am keen to improve with my cycling. Core strength assists in cycling by transferring more power to the pedals as it provides a stable platform for the lower body (hips, thighs and knees) to push against whilst supporting the lower back (an area where a lot of cyclists often suffer pain as it can be the first area to fatigue). Your core is what keeps your body stable when in the saddle. If you have a weak core you will lose power in your legs and it can also lead to injury including pain in the upper body and shoulders.
The exercises in the session were targeted to develop, over time, strength in the muscles of the abdomen and spine, which in turn improves balance and efficiency with torso stability which will undoubtedly help when cycling.
Following the workshop all participants will receive an electronic copy of the information handout, plus the pilates exercise booklet with photographs and descriptions of the exercises completed in the class. This enables you to continue this at home. This is great for the likes of me as I will put my hands up and admit I never stretch before or after a run or a bike ride and I know I should so I fully intend to make sure in future that I do! I also know I grip my handlebars too tightly and this can be a side effect from a weaker core and so I am sure I will see benefits by increasing my core strength.