How Pilates can benefit your cycling

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Kate Courtney, American mountain bike champ, in action. (Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool)
Kate Courtney, American mountain bike champ, in action. (Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool)
  • Getting better at riding bikes is not only about riding bikes.
  • Long periods of time behind bars could cause imbalances in the body.
  • Pilates is proven to be beneficial for cyclists in a number of ways.

Preparing for the multitude of multiday events on the South African cycling calendar, riders often adopt the training strategy of more miles being better.

Hours on the bike, intervals and power output is often all that matters. Over the last few years, I also started looking at how cross training could potentially benefit my cycling.

The search intensified when I began finding that although my legs still felt good after eight hours on the bike for multiple days, my hands, arms and back were taking strain.

Professional mountain biker world champions, Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney, have made Pilates and other core exercises an integral part of their training regime, seeking those marginal gains in explosive power needed for elite cross-country racing.

I decided to try Pilates. By strengthening my core, I am less reliant on my arms and back to keep me stable on the bike and along with this improved stability I found that I rode more efficiently. 

Kate Courtney does yoga to prepare for the cross c
Kate Courtney does yoga to prepare for the cross country season in Sedona, USA. (Photo: Paris Gore/ Red Bull Content Pool)

Using what you have, better

The more efficient you are, the less energy you use. This great in endurance sports because it basically means you can go longer at the same intensity, or that you can up the intensity over the same time period.

Pilates targets the core muscles that help stabilise you on the bike, keeping the spine in a stable position whilst the limbs move. Core stability and hip flexibility are integral to producing power on the bike, Pilates is about making power, but in a different way.

Generating power is one thing, using it effectively is another. Pelvic stability is a key benefit of Pilates and will help cyclists channel their power more effectively, as they are not constantly adjusting to keep central and straight.

An increase in core strength also saw my balance and bike handling skills improve.

Kate Courntney working out at Red Bull HQ on Novem
Kate Courntney working out at Red Bull HQ. (Photo: Jesse DeYoung/Red Bull Content Pool)

A stable rider, is a faster and safer rider

Pilates also helped improve my flexibility and posture. It is a great way to redress some of the postural imbalances that many hours on the bicycle and in front of a computer screen can cause. 

These imbalances may be from an old injury or could just be a habit that has incentivised one side of your body to become stronger than the other. Working with a qualified Pilates instructor can aid in rectifying these imbalances and help strengthen muscles that are specific to cycling.

As Pilates focuses on your core, it can also help with preventing common cycling injuries such as lower back, hip and knee pain. Pilates will also aid in developing a better awareness of your body and how it moves and reduce the imbalances that you can feel as tightness or weakness.

Pilates is no longer an activity reserved for retirees and people who don’t wish to become yogis. It has real benefits that can improve your cycling performance, whether that means increasing power or staying injury free.

ALSO READ: Why you should be training with flat pedals

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