Cycling is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. It is popular as a mode of cheaper and environmentally friendly transport, it is increasingly enjoyed for leisure with people wanting to get out and enjoy the fresh air, and, of course, it is a popular sport. And with two British riders placing within the top 10 final rankings at this year’s Tour de France, it is highly likely that the popularity of cycling as a sport will increase even further in the next few years. The Cycling World Championships in Scotland is also a chance for cycling to really grow as a sport as all the disciplines greatest riders come together for one awesome festival of cycling.
Of course, like all sports, cycling is not without its fair share of strains and injuries, and one injury that plagues cyclists, in particular, is neck strain. Sometimes referred to as cyclist’s neck, the complaint occurs as a result of the extended position of the neck that is caused by craning, which often takes place when a cyclist is looking ahead to see the course in front of them.
Neck strain can also occur as a result of poor posture or an aggressive riding position. All of these can ultimately cause the trapezius muscle and the other muscles in the neck to develop stiffness and pain. The more cycling is undertaken with poor posture, the worse this type of injury can become.
Pilates is a great addition to any training regime for a range of different sports and is particularly good for cyclists.
Pilates exercises can help to strengthen, stretch and also lengthen the muscles in the neck that become too tight and short from the hunched position that long distance cyclists find themselves in after a lengthy time in the saddle.
Pilates can also help to strengthen and improve how you handle a bike, as well as efficiency and balance when cycling. When a cyclist becomes tired in the saddle, their body begins to roll from side to side on the cycle, and Pilates can help to build up a strong and stable core that can reduce the effect that this has on the body.
This can help the cyclist to pedal in a smoother manner, one where their shoulders, head and body can remain still for longer.
When core strength is improved as a result of the right Pilates exercises, it can improve the way in which someone cycles, and this can help with neck strain
The right Pilates exercises can make significant improvements to how you cycle and reduce the risk of injury. Why not check out my online or in-person classes to see how Pilates can help relieve some of the neck problems caused by cycling?
What is functional strength?
Functional strength is the strength we need in our daily lives to live. To be able to pick up our kids, shopping, go cycling or running we need a balance between strength and flexibility. Pilates exercises build functional strength, by creating a balance between strength and flexibility you do not compromise your body alignment and therefore posture. Often heavy weight training can mean a shortening of your muscles which compromises your flexibility and posture.
Squats and lunges are great examples of functional strength training exercises. These integrated exercises use lots of muscles, whereas isolated exercises, such as leg extensions, do not.
Why do you need functional strength?
Here’s a scary stat: your muscle mass and strength will decrease 30 to 50% between the ages of 30 and 80. So start using those muscles if you want to do at 80 what you can do at 30!
Doing resistance exercises and movements that help you become stronger, more flexible and agile means you are better equipped to handle day-to-day tasks as well as helping you be less injury prone.
Functional fitness incorporates muscle groups across the whole body it is beneficial to nearly everyone no matter what your fitness goal is. It builds lean muscle and can help you lose weight if that’s your intention. Right up to high performance athletes functional strength training brings a well rounded training session to your otherwise highly targeted weekly routine.
I am going to post some good functional strength training exercises on my youtube channel that you can do in your house and garden.
Thanks for reading 🙂
This is a special post by a young man called Finlay who was meant to be coming and having coaching with us whilst over in the UK from Australia. Sadly Finlay hurt himself (riding his bike of course) so couldn’t come for any riding. However he did write us a little post on riding and his dreams of down hill podiums.
Good luck Finlay!
Where does it start? The desire to go faster, to go longer, to go higher? For those who don’t know me, I’m Finlay. Currently 16 years old with a dream to become a pro downhill mountain bike racer.
At the age of nine I discovered some small jumps in my local bushland. On the heaviest BMX of the century, I was petrified to send this foot jump to flat. Later I learnt about bikes that are designed to do this sort of thing, bikes that have gears and suspension. That summer I worked all weekends to save for a mountain bike. By the end of the summer I had saved $700. A short drive to Nannup and I had a Giant Talon. It was love at first sight, the fresh paint job, 2×9 gears and a front fork. What else does a beginner need? In my Nike trainers and green tee, I was flying down local trails. With a hardtail rocks felt like boulders, with my xc tires roots were like ice and all jumps had a hard landing.
Years down the line I now have a 2014 trek session which is my main bike. My mates and I raced each other down the local trails. From there I started to race in state rounds. I fell in love with racing and have wanted to do it as a career for a long time. I’m now doing bigger jumps and going faster than I ever could have imagined. I still want to go bigger, faster, longer and higher. I wake up every day thinking that I could win a world cup because if others can do it why can’t I? I’m dedicated to working out, eating healthily and lots of practice riding. The thing that gets me up at 6am to train and what I think about when I go to bed is that I can win a DH world cup, and one day maybe I will.
Well, that’s it for the 2019 Southern XC Season.
17/03/19 Southern XC Round 1 – Matterley Basin, Winchester
Fred raced this one in the u12s at the South Downs venue of Matterley Basin. Flowy singletrack in the woods combined with fast open sections combined to give close racing. Fred started at the back and was immediately held up behind a crash. Pushing hard he fought up to 17th having passed 18 riders. A good ride!
21/04/19 Southern XC Round 2 – Checkendon, Reading
Edith and Fred both raced here in the u12s. This is a very familiar venue after many years of the old Rampage series and frequent Southern XC visits here. Pan flat, but tight and rooty, this course rewards speed through corners and power, lots of power! Edith raced hard and came in 12th. Fred got off to a good start this time and was rewarded with an 11th place. It was also Easter Sunday, so chocolate eggs followed!
19/05/19 Southern XC Round 3 – Crow Hill, New Forest
Edith and Fred returned to the much-loved venue of Crow Hill in the New Forest. The course here is loamy, fast and in contrast to Checkendon is nicely hilly. Loved by Fred, and less so by Edith! Good starts by both saw them racing well up until a ‘racing incident’ between Fred and Edith resulted in Fred through the tape and crashing off the course, right in front of the race commissaire. He wasn’t impressed at the Price sibling antics. Finishing the remainder of the race cleanly saw Fred in 13th and Edith in 9th.
02/06/19 Southern XC Round 4 – Folly Farm, Basingstoke
This is a new woodland venue for Southern XC and featured a fresh cut woodland course with a reasonable climb and fun descent. Edith raced hard for 10th and Fred had a very close race resulting in a sprint finish for a 10th place. Good racing! Good to see new venues and it should develop into a cracking race venue for the future.
14/07/19 Southern XC Round 5 – Pippingford, Ashdown Forest
This one was a full family outing with Fred and Edith in u12s, Karen in vet ladies and me in open men. I reckon this is the best venue on the Southern XC circuit, and every year it gets better! Why? Well it’s a Southern Enduro venue too, giving some cracking descents with berms, jumps and drops abound, all earnt with some stiff rooty climbs too. Get your droppers on for this one and have some fun! Well fun I had and scored a happy 8th placed finish.
Edith and Fred both got 10th placed finishes and then we all cheered Karen on in for her race. Just to make it an endurance day too, Karen rode to the venue and started her race with some 60 something miles in her legs already. Luckily it didn’t slow her down and she scored a 3rd placed finish. Podium!!
Southern XC Overall
Edith finished 7th overall and Fred finished 5th.
Again many thanks to Southern XC for a great series – always well run, fun and on great courses.
The racing is very inclusive so if your child is keen, get along and give it a go.
Sunday was the last day of this amazing adventure, the Carpathian MTB Epic, it has been a mental and physical roller coaster from day one.
Lining up at the start line on Sunday I felt a twinge of sadness that this incredible experience was nearly over but also a little relieved that this would be the last day of pain! The final day saw competitors in the 1-day-epic join us at the start line for a shorter 40km loop, this was an appealing idea, just 40km instead of 60km…
For the first time in the race we headed out of the arena and into new territory battling a grassy off camber field with ruts and diverts the size of my front wheel it was tricky to navigate after this exhausting affair we were greeted with a hike-a-bike section, I won’t miss these, at the top I had a decision to make 40km or 60km. It wasn’t hard really it had to be 60km!
The trail continued down on a fast descent, but line choice was important as huge gullies had opened up leaving a thin ‘safe zone’ on which to ride.
I felt really fresh and continued to make good progress. The course was amazing with so much packed into 60km riding through lush green forests, over tiny bridges and vast ravines with the sound of the water echoing.
Once we climbed out of the ravine the descent down was really tricky almost like riding in a river bed of boulders, it was a case of eyes up bum back try to stay straight, my arms were getting a serious workout as I rumbled through the rocks.
At the bottom was every riders nightmare, the air ambulance, I’m not sure what had happened but I do hope whoever the rider was he is okay.
After this I rode slightly more carefully these rugged mountains we were playing in meant business and the consequences for choosing the wrong line could be nasty. The course continued to climb until reaching the steepest downhill I’ve ever come across, channelling my inner Rachel Atherton I rode the first 20m before grabbing a tree in order to stop. Walking my bike was as hard as riding, to keep it going slow enough for me to slide my feet forwards the breaks had to be locked out which made the bike skid sideways.
After battling gravity through the wood the bottom was in sight and the course started to climb, again.
My nutrition strategy was working every 40 minutes EAT. This worked well and I pushed myself hard until the end was in sight. The last 5km were tough following the same course as stage two it felt a really long way, but finally the white arch was in view and I just had one more climb to make and then it would be the home straight.
Rolling over the finish line was an awesome feeling the Carpathian MTB Epic stage race had held nothing back, a massive adventure which pushed my mountain bike skills to the max and challenged what I thought my body was capable of. Turns out it was more capable than I thought!
Coming into the race I was not prepared, training had been mediocre at best and a mixture of family and friend events had not exactly made me ‘super healthy’ either. What I learnt was that your body is incredibly adaptable and you just learn to suck it up, smile and keep pushing those pedals and eventually that climb will finish.
Until next time…
Stage two of the Carpathian MTB Epic started with the same route out of Fundata as stage one this gruelling climb hadn’t become easier overnight which was a shame as my legs pushed hard, body weight over the bars just to keep traction on the front wheel.
The route climbed a similar path up to the first feed station but today instead of turning left we went right a short sharp climb led to what felt like the roof of the world towering above the mighty Carpathian mountain range, standing still to catch my breath my heart beat was the only sound. The vast wilderness stretched out in every direction un-touched by humans, rugged and wild.
Now for the descent! The start was a grassy meadow, with a twist as it was basically a vertical drop, I opted for two feet! This came with the nuisances of flies, which seemed to think I smelt great. I’m sure I didn’t!
Once past the rather daunting top section the climb entered the woods and became a whole world of fun, loose earth, roots and switch backs made for technical riding. I kept my eyes up and picked my lines carefully as I swept through the forest my Specialized 29’er making easy progress down the mountain side.
We were at the bottom far too quick, a long an arduous gravel road climb took you straight from glory and back to the pain cave for what seemed like an age, as I made my way out of the tree line the rumbles of thunder got louder.
Finally seeing the red tent of the all too familiar feed zone I had made it to 25km in 3 hours 21 mins and passed the cut off for continuing into the most technical section of the course. As I started to climb the weather growled, thunder and lightning seemed to be surrounding me and the rain was coming down like someone had turned the hose on! Reaching the woods I slipped off the path and hurt my ankle, it wasn’t that bad, but in that moment I
decided that my head had to rule and to turn round and back to safety. Reaching the red tent I was surprised how far I had actually climbed. Not stopping at the feed zone I continued on through the rain and wind feeling so cold I just kept pushing, not noticing the time tick by… By the time I realised my lack of eating and drinking it was too late to reverse the damage I had done, it was if someone had switch the power off in my legs and the only gear was slow and painful, I crawled back into the race village.
On unpacking my stuff and reflecting it became even more evident why I was I trouble my full camelback told the story, I was so dehydrated my body was just running on nothing. It’s safe to say stage two was a steep re-education in looking after myself. Usually I am so good at refuelling but the conditions got the better of me and then I paid the price hitting the wall 10km from the finish.
Stage three I promised myself would go better, and it did!
To see more photos head over to my instagram.