Want To Get Fit For The Trails? Here’s How…

Want To Get Fit For The Trails? Here’s How…

If you feel as though your fitness for mountain biking could use some work but you’re not sure where to begin, you could certainly do a lot worse than following some of the advice offered by Rachel Atherton.

Speaking to GQ magazine, she recently revealed some of her training tips and explained that her training schedule is quite fluid which keeps it interesting and means she can work around any big events or races.

Monday is typically a recovery day, however, if she’s had a race over the weekend. Tuesday is the main training day and the one that includes a host of exercises that will be useful for aspiring mountain bike racers too.

She always begins her session with activation, which are exercises targeted at keeping her on her bike and dealing with existing injuries. This is followed by two strengthening exercises – one for strength and one for power – six conditioning exercises and finishes with work for her energy systems, usually a Wattbike session or ride on her XC bike.

Rachel also fits in yoga, massages and does other exercise like stand-up paddleboarding, and swimming during her week. Nutrition is key as well, and she offered lots of insight into her diet throughout the week too.

If you’re looking to boost your general fitness to help you improve on your mountain bike, then take a look at our range of group Pilates classes available across Hampshire, to help build your core strength.

Take a look at why Pilates is such a good choice for all kinds of cyclists, not just mountain bike riders.

How to Help Combat the Most Common Mountain Bike Injuries

How to Help Combat the Most Common Mountain Bike Injuries

“During the past three years, researchers from Napier University have been conducting a massive research project with Enduro World Series participants collecting information about mountain bike injuries, and more importantly how to prevent them. “The survey was carried out by Sports Scientist Dr Debbie Palmer of Edinburgh Napier University and covers the full breadth of participation, from our recreational rider base right through to the upper echelons of elite athletes.”

The report comprises of two separate pieces of research. The first questioned 2,000 EWS-racing athletes, from 46 countries, across 10 EWS races, recording how, when, and where they were injured. Highlights include the most frequently occurring injuries and those injuries that resulted in the most days spent off the bike recovering.

The findings are rather fascinating which low concussion rates and more injuries during the 2016 XC mountain bike race in RIO in 2016 than in the Enduro World Series events!

enduro world series report findingsRead the full report here.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that shoulder and clavicular injuries are the most common. These injuries typically involve a long recovery – 25 days on average.

So, how can enduro rider’s improve their strength around their shoulders to decrease this injury risk.

 

(Picture thanks to EWS report)

What makes up your shoulder?

The shoulder is an extremely complex joint made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm) as well as the associated muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The humerus loosely attaches to the scapula in a ball and socket joint that allows the arm to rotate in a circular manner or to hinge up and away from the body. The joint must be mobile enough to do a wide range of dynamic movements (like throwing), but also stable enough to lift heavy objects and push and pull. This compromise between mobility and stability means the muscles need to be strong and stable to protect this joint.

The major muscles involved with movement of the shoulder are the four rotator cuff muscles and the deltoid. These muscles allow the upper arm to rotate in and out, move forward, out to the side, and behind the back.  Tendons are the bands of fibrous connective tissue that attach these muscles to the humerus.

Here are our top 5 shoulder stability exercises to help you combat those injuries.

  1. Rotator Cuff External Rotation with Band
    1. Palms facing up hold the band out in front of you
    2. Keep your elbows tucked in
    3. Forearms parallel to the ground
    4. Breath in, on the exhale open the band to the side
    5. Hold for the inhale
    6. Exhale bring arms back to the centre
    7. Repeat 5 times
      1. To increase strength add in pulses once the band is opened to the side

rotator cuff exercise

  1. High to Low Row
    1. Attach a resistance band to something sturdy at or above shoulder height. Be sure it is secure so it doesn’t come lose when you pull on it
    2. Get down on one knee so the knee opposite the outstretched arm is raised. Your body and lowered knee should be aligned. Rest your other hand on your raised knee
    3. Holding the band securely with your arm outstretched, pull your elbow toward your body. Keep your back straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down as you pull. Your body should not move or twist with your arm, engage your core muscles to stop this from happening
    4. Return to start and repeat 3 sets of 10
  1. Reverse Fly
    1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight and bend forward slightly at the waist
    2. With a light weight (bean cans of full water bottles will do) in each hand, extend your arms and raise them away from your body.
    3. Do not lock your elbow. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you do so.
    4. Do not raise your arms above shoulder height
    5. Return to start and repeat 3 sets of 10

 

4. Press Up (Bi-cep)

    1. Start standing, bend your knees and put your hands on the floor so they are under your shoulders
    2. Lift your knees off the floor so you are in a sloping position, don’t stick your bum in the air or let your hips drop (keep your knees on the floor for a modified box press up)
    3. Hands facing forward slowly lower your nose towards the floor, elbows moving outwards
    4. Engage your core, (pull your belly button towards your spine) to help protect your lower back
    5. Inhale at the bottom, exhale and push yourself back up into the sloping position

5. Press Up (tri-cep)

    1. Start standing, bend your knees and put your hands on the floor so they are under your shoulders
    2. Lift your knees off the floor so you are in a sloping position, don’t stick your bum in the air or let your hips drop (keep your knees on the floor for a modified box press up)
    3. Hands facing forward slowly lower your nose towards the floor, elbows moving towards your hips, arms grazing the side of your body
    4. Engage your core, (pull your belly button towards your spine) to help protect your lower back
    5. Inhale at the bottom, exhale and push yourself back up into the sloping position

press up

 

 

Why Cyclists should consider Pilates as part of their training.

Why Cyclists should consider Pilates as part of their training.

If you want to be a ‘better’ cyclist you just put in ‘more miles’ right? Although to a certain extent yes, there are significant benefits to come from ‘off bike’ training such as Pilates.

Having a strong core can make it easier for you to climb and move around the bike. But many of us neglect our core muscles in favour of a few extra hours on the bike. A strong core can help revolutionise your cycling technique, whether you prefer skinny or fat tyre antics.

Pilates for cyclists

So, what is Pilates?
Pilates focuses on the ‘inner core’ of our bodies, developing strength from the innermost structures and works outwards. Rather than working our bodies through muscle isolation, Pilates focuses on posture, strength, mobility and flexibility from head to toe. Moving the body in complete flowing movements, not isolated parts.

Why is Pilates good for cyclists?
Besides the recognised benefits of taking time out to focus on you, in a calming and relaxing environment, it can actually improve your cycling form, efficiency and power. But how I hear you say?

Pilates:

  • Develops a strong core and back for stable upper body.
  • Builds cycling specific strength and muscle control.
  • Increases flexibility and helps relieve tightness in cycling specific muscles.
  • Reduces pain and discomfort from long stints in the saddle by building strength and stability in your muscles.
  • Breath work helps to speed up recovery time as well as building focus and mental stillness needed for tackling trail features.
  • Helps prevent and avoid injuries by creating an all-round more functional moving pattern.
  • Increases balance by working on muscle control, this transfers to the bike, when you’re moving around the bike.

pilates for cyclists

What some cyclists I work with have to say:

As a cyclist I fall foul of not stretching, but with Pilates it gives my body a wakeup call, stretching to relieve tension, working on my core, but also giving that hour to unwind mentally. Try it!”  – Matt

Since doing Pilates, my posture on my bike has been much improved. I feel more stable and have less pressure on my hands. My breathing is more controlled and I’m very aware of my shoulders – I consciously try to keep them relaxed and down which relieves tension in my neck and through my arms, which in turn makes cycling more comfortable. ” – Karen

How often should you do it?
There’s not really a set rule to the regularity with which you should do Pilates. If you only have one hour a week, you will feel the benefits. Spend time working with a good instructor, try and get yourself into a small group, not a class of 30! Although you will still gain benefits from being in a bigger group, in a smaller group the instructor can give more hands on correction and support to you as a client helping you make the greatest gains. Most instructors will also help you with exercises you can do at home on your own as well. The stretches in a Pilates class especially can be done after any ride including hamstring and hip flexor stretch both excellent for cyclists!

 

What will a first Pilates session typically look and feel like?
The first thing to note about Pilates is there is a lot of information; don’t panic if you come away from your first session with brain fog that is normal. Pilates is about controlled movement patterns so expect to spend time finding and engaging your core muscles. Each movement should flow and you may feel the breathing and coordination seems a little strange, don’t worry after a few classes it will become clear. You should leave feeling relaxed, energised and like you have used muscles you never knew existed!

Pilates for cyclists

If you would like more information on my Pilates classes or to book a bespoke session for your cycling club please send me an email.

Pilates side leg lift with ball

Pilates side leg lift with ball

The side leg lift engages the oblique abdominal muscles and promotes lengthening of all the major muscles. Focus on keeping your hips stacked and stable as you squeeze your glutes and lift your legs. Side leg lifts work the abdominals, especially the obliques, as well as the inner thighs. Lifting the legs together keeps the inner thighs and glutes engaged as the abdominals pulled in and up, developing core strength and balance.

How to:

  1. Lay on your side check you can see your toes then bring your head back into alignment
  2. Top arm either bent to support you or on a ball to add to the difficulty
  3. Inhale to prepare
  4. Exhale and raise each leg individually, maintaining that core contraction
  5. Inhale and lower to the starting position
  6. Repeat 3 or 4 times
  7. Next Inhale to prepare
  8. Exhale and lift both legs together
  9. Raise your arm and place it along your leg
  10. Reach your arm over your head and back
  11. Inhae and lower legs
  12. Repeat 4 times

Muscle activation:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Obliques (internal and external)

 

Pilates Side Bend

Pilates Side Bend

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

Variations:

  • 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.

Pilates dead bug – with ball

Pilates dead bug – with ball

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the ball between your knees (if you don’t have a ball don’t worry)
  4. 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.
  5. Inhale as you return to the starting position.

Variations:

  • 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.