You//Fitness and Health
by Greg Small
It might seem like an obvious statement to make but in order to perform at your best it is essential that your body is working at its optimal state. With the right amount of force being distributed through each joint, each muscle should be working with its relevant synergist, neutraliser, agonist and antagonist so that biomechanically you are working like a smoothly oiled machine.
Therefore a correctly functioning core is essential for stabilisation and force generation in all sports including cycling.
When training for any cycling endurance events such as a Sportive, an Olympic distance triathlon, half Ironman, or a full Ironman, the fundamental concept of core conditioning often gets forgotten about. With training programs emphasising endurance, long rides and time on the bike rather than the fundamental mechanical workings of the human body.
Due to core conditioning sliding down the priority list on the training agenda injuries, poor biomechanics and a loss of performance can occur. Over time if you core isn’t firing correctly you will experience fatigue at a quicker rate. Your legs will tire, your lower back will start to ache and smaller muscle groups such as your arms, neck and shoulders are likely to tighten, resulting in aches and pains resulting in a poor performance.
Over a period of time this will not only lead to a loss of form but often result in sustained damage and injury. You will also experience a loss of power in your pedal stroke and end up in a frustrated heap at the end of your cycling events.
Having strongly defined thighs (which might be the envy of your cycling buddies) is not the be all and end all to being a successful cyclist. You need to ensure you’re taking time out from the saddle, the long weekend rides and spend some time conditioning your body for your events.
This might include attending some Pilates classes, asking for the help from a qualified fitness professional or hunting down a cycling specific coach. Embracing this activity and strengthening the muscles which might not be visible to your eye, yet which are essential for optimum performance, will allow you to ride for longer and stronger.
You can try this for yourself; sit on a stationary bike or try it out cycling. Spend a few minutes pedalling as you normally would do, then make a concerted effort to 'pull in, zip up' (as we say in Pilates) and feel the difference. If you’re engaging correctly you should automatically feel stronger, more in in control and have more stability through your pelvis.
Now just imagine the increase in your performance if you could activate your core over a sustained period of time. So remember to take some time out from the bike and focus your attentions elsewhere, it will benefit your time on the bike in the long run.