As with all exercises, work at the level that works for you and only progress when you feel ready and able to up the challenge and difficulty. Side bend is great for stretching the muscles surrounding the rib cage i.e serratus and intercostals as well as strengthening your obliques, improving your balance and toning your waist line.
How to do it:
Sit sideways with your legs bent to one side, with the top foot placed in front of the bottom foot
Place the supporting hand in line with the seated hip a few inches in front of the shoulder
Press into supporting hand and straighten the legs to lift the pelvis away from the Mat, making a rainbow shape with the body
To slow down the pace of the exercise, inhale in the start position. Exhale as you bring the arm overhead and stretch into the top side of the body. Inhale and stay. Exhale and lower down.
The body should be in a line as if it is between two panes of glass
Repeat 4 times
Leave the shin of your bottom leg on the mat and lift your top arm up and overhead, imagine rocking onto that bottom knee
Keep your supporting arm bent, to decrease the range of movement
The best way to improve your strength and flexibility is to come to a class, check out the timetable and venue list here.
Here is my video of the dead bug exercise using a Pilates fit ball. This pilates exercise is a great way to strengthen your abs and core without putting added strain on your lower back, which can be a concern with other common ab exercises.
As with all exercises, work at the level that works for you and only progress when you feel ready and able to up the challenge and difficulty.
How to do it:
Lie flat on your back with your arms held out in front of you pointing to the ceiling. Then bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degree angles, we call this the table top position. If this is too hard then leave one foot on the floor for stability and build up to both legs off the floor.
Find that neutral spine, so remember there should be a little gap under your lumbar spine (lower back, draw your ribs towards your hips and engage your core by pulling your belly button to your spine.
Place the ball between your knees (if you don’t have a ball don’t worry)
Inhale to prepare and take your arms and legs away from the mid line of your body. Keep your legs bent and toe tap them to the floor.
Inhale as you return to the starting position.
To make this easier reduce the range of movement or try leaving your arms in the air and just move your legs
To make it harder as I do in the video take your legs further away from your body increasing the range of movement
Use opposite arm and leg to bring in muscular coordination
Watch out for:
Keep the pelvis still and in neutral throughout the movement.
Avoid using your neck or tensing your shoulders.
Watch for doming of the abdominals as you lower your leg towards the ground. This is when the abs “pop up” and is a sign that they are weak and can lead to back pain. To prevent doming, reduce your range of movement and only send your leg towards the ground to the point where your abdominals can stay flat. Then bring the leg back.
I had my first coach when I was seven or eight, he was my Dad and whether it was climbing at Idwal slabs, mountain biking or kayaking. He had a technique to help me achieve what I needed to get the job done. I wasn’t very competitive as a kid, but as I grew up my hunger for competition grew and with it my understanding of how to bring out the best in other people.
When I came home one day and announced I was going to enter a bike race, my Dad said, let’s go to the forest. He found a circuit, like an XC course and timed me again and again and again. The truth is I had no idea what I was getting myself into and my Dad helped me to realise just how much this was going to hurt and how deep I would have to dig to get to my dream of racing elite. It worked.
After a few years I hit that shiny ‘elite’ status I had been dreaming of. It was funny because on reaching elite I thought that would be ‘enough’ it wasn’t. I had to train harder than ever and actually my body and mind were a bit over it. I looked for a new challenge, I had always been quite good at endurance so 12 and 24 hour races seemed a good step up, the technicality of a 12 or 24 hour solo race was exciting too having to plan out food and think about being mentally as well as physically prepared. I made it to my first 12 hour solo podium and decided now I could go further.
The Trans Alp Bike Race was a seven day stage race across the Alps like nothing I had done before but I had a good grounding in training and so to start with I did what felt right, but something was missing I’d go out on long rides and completely blow up, I was doing unstructured weight and interval training. I needed a guide to help me get to my goal or I was in danger of not getting to the start let alone the finish. I reached out to a mountain bike coach, someone who had far more experience than I did and he helped build a plan that suited my lifestyle and got me to that finish line.
Within a few weeks my training had completely changed and with my coaches guidance I was seeing improvements. I was already good at training and able to push myself but the problem was I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I couldn’t possibly of structured a plan like my mountain bike coach because I didn’t have that knowledge and expertise to create it.
Being a coach myself I love helping other people progress and it’s nearly always the small things that help riders to really feel more confident on their bikes or help them understand how to flow faster through the trail. As British Cycling would say, it’s all about marginal gains. These are the things that you either know or you don’t and having a coach can really help because they can see what you can’t.
If you aren’t convinced on getting a coach, here are some reasons why maybe you should.
You’re already quite happy riding round your local trail centre with mates. You have made progress and feel you can teach yourself.
This is a great start, but there are probably parts of your mountain biking that you haven’t considered. An experienced coach will pick up on these small things and help you correct them to make you more efficient.
I’m learning at my own speed.
Coaching isn’t about rushing the learning process it’s about improvement through streamlining. We are all time crunched, why spend months practising something on your own that a mountain bike coach could help you do in a day?
Coaching costs money and you’d rather not spend it.
This is a fair point, coaching costs money. Biking itself is not exactly a cheap sport, so I guess it comes down to how much you want to get out of your mountain biking time. If you are looking to go faster, then coaching is certainly a good investment, better than any carbon handle bar! In my opinion anyway.
Get in touch with me about how I can help you with your mountain biking, whether you are dusting off the bike after a few years off or looking towards new race goals, I can help.
Over the next few weeks I will share with you some of my favourite Pilates workouts to increase strength, flexibility and balance.
Balance is a fundamental skill everyone should practise. It’s something we take for granted, but as we get older balance and muscle strength can help to stop us from having falls. When you balance on one leg you use your core and small muscles in your feet to keep upright. Find a spot on the wall in front of you which keeps you in alignment. Draw your belly button to your spine and feel the length through your spine, use your toes to grip the ground. In this video I have added in some upper body work with the ball, as you increase the range of movement think about squeezing your core to remain still. Each time you open your arms imagine squashing a walnut between your shoulder blades to activate your upper back muscles. As you improve increase the range of movement and then reps. To make it harder try standing on a block, to make it easier decrease the range of movement and height of the leg. I hope you enjoy this little video. Subscribe to keep updated with more Pilates workouts.