The Cyclist and Pilates

Cyclists amaze me.  More specifically, I'm talking about the road cyclists you see wearing that questionable spandex, whizzing up/down the hills as your car engine groans to crawl up the mountain next to them.  It's an impressive mixture of strength, endurance and mental toughness to be able to do what they do.

My husband, Tim, is one of these people.  He'll ride 70 miles with over 3,500 feet of climbing on a normal Saturday, and then come meet me for lunch back in the city (crazy, I know).

To keep Tim in shape for riding, we do Pilates and some yoga stretches and exercises to recuperate and strengthen his body.  We strategically focus on movements that help to counteract the strenuous repetition of cycling.  While a full session would normally consist of a lot of more, below are the top four things we focus on and some examples of the stretches/exercises we do to get him mountain ready in the studio:

  1. STRETCH THE MAJOR LEG MUSCLES: the quads, the hamstrings, the calves/achilles.  We do this on the reformer's leg straps and foot bar.  You can also do the same thing with a theraband/yoga strap around your foot's arch - one leg at a time, lying on your back.
  2. OPEN THOSE HIPS: our hip muscles help us to flex and extend our legs.  We focus on all of the major hip muscles, but we especially work to release the front hip flexors (especially the psoas muscle) responsible for the repeated forward bicycling motion to propel up the mountain.  (Many cyclists will complain about lower back pain which can often be attributed to this muscle that runs from the mid-spine, weaves through the pelvis and attaches to the side of the upper leg bone).  We also work on giving the legs/hips circular motions that they don't get on the bike via leg circles on the reformer.
  3. MOVE THAT SPINE: riders are hunched over their bikes for hours at a time.  The spine was meant to not only forward bend, but back and side bend as well as twist.  We do some twisting and side bending movements to keep Tim's spine healthy.  We also do some back extensions via Pilates Swan/yoga cobra to open his chest and shoulders that hunch over during riding.
  4. ROLL IT OUT: if you can get a roller on it, you can roll it out.  We focus on rolling out the IT bands on the side of the thighs, the quads and the butt.  Roll to where it hurts and go slow - back and forth movements.
Hanging Tim's legs on the Pilates cadillac to release the front hip flexors that are tight and tend to grip in cyclists who use them to climb hills.

Hanging Tim's legs on the Pilates cadillac to release the front hip flexors that are tight and tend to grip in cyclists who use them to climb hills.

Upper Left: Leg circles to get some rotation and help open the hips; Upper Right: deep groin (inner thigh) stretch; Lower Left: single hamstring stretch, also once crossed over body we get the IT band; Lower Right: quad and psoas stretch

Upper Left: Leg circles to get some rotation and help open the hips; Upper Right: deep groin (inner thigh) stretch; Lower Left: single hamstring stretch, also once crossed over body we get the IT band; Lower Right: quad and psoas stretch

Top: Swan on the cadillac's push-through bar to open the chest and get some back extension in the upper back; Bottom: Swan/yoga Cobra done on a foam roller for the same effect

Top: Swan on the cadillac's push-through bar to open the chest and get some back extension in the upper back; Bottom: Swan/yoga Cobra done on a foam roller for the same effect