Setting a PR is not easy and sometimes it is quite a while in between setting them. While you may have to wait to set them from time to time, you can immediately start working on your next one by increasing your core strength.
Get stronger off the bike, and it’s a lot easier to go faster (than your friends) when you’re on it.
Here’s where I’m going with that. If you ride a bike, you really only do one thing: sit down to push a pedal toward the ground. Sure, there are switchbacks if you mountain bike, gravel grinding for long periods of time, and loads of roads to ride.
However, the commonality between those three is thusly:
1) You sit down.
2) You place your feet on the pedals.
3) You repeatedly push a leg down to get the bike to move forward as the opposite knee comes up.
Sometimes your feet are connected (“clipped in”) to the pedals, in which case, I hope you’ve had a bike fit to make sure your joint angles are optimized in your pursuit of higher levels of cardiovascular fitness.
HUGE HINT BTW:
The wrong joint angles from the pedal up added to 1000’s of RPM’s pedaling may help you set MORE PTs (BAD) and fewer PRs (GOOD). Prepare accordingly.
If you aren’t connected to the bike at the pedals, you’re still not off the hook. While you’ve got more options to place your feet on the pedals, your legs are still making one motion (up and down) for long periods of time. Yes, you too can get a bike fit, and yes it will probably help.
BIG HINT BTW for you flat pedal fans out there:
Regardless of the kind of shoes you wear to ride and the type of pedals they push down, the bottom line remains the same. Cycling is a single movement plane repetitive stress motion that can cause muscle imbalances and possible aches and pains to develop.
The biggest of which is shutting down the glutes over activating the quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors while hammering your posture head to toe. And they say running is bad for you! It isn’t btw, it’s the way people run that can cause unintended negative side effects.
Oddly enough, the same core strength approach on two wheels will help on two feet as well. Weird how that’s a thing…
Muscle imbalances can pull joints out of alignment and potentially lead to eventual injury. Remember, pain is your body very politely telling you “please halt that which you’re doing, I’m not particularly fond of the activity.”
If something hurts, get it checked, better safe than sorry. READ: riding in pain gets you closer to setting more PTs (BAD) and fewer PRs (GOOD).
The bottom line is if something hurts pre-ride (get it checked out), felt better while riding then hurt again post ride, you’re closer to setting a PT (BAD) and further away from a PR (GOOD.)
Repetition is the mother of skill, my friends!
One of the best ways to give yourself a fighting chance to ride pain free is to get stronger off the bike to have as much fun as possible when you’re on it. It’s a pretty simple solution that doesn’t take a complex set of exercises to pull off.
The three exercises below work the glutes (the powerhouse of the lower body), your diagonal lines (the most critical component to walking, cornering, switchbacking, sprinting, etc), and overall core stiffness to help you generate more power in the saddle.
Notice there aren’t any complex compound movements to master so they’re pretty user-friendly. Basics always work best. So don’t overcomplicate the simple and you’ll always have more exercise success!
Stability Ball Standing Anti-Rotation Plank Press:
Anytime you corner on the bike, the outside foot and inside hand work together to drive diagonal force into the hips stabilized by your core. The stronger you are doing this “isometrically” (standing still “planking” as you contract your muscles) the easier time you’ll have doing this dynamically while riding.
This exercise will light up your entire body from the ground up, help you strengthen your pedaling platform and that’s a very good thing.
2. Single Leg Standing Isometric Wall Side Push:
To effectively drive power into a pedal cornering at speed, the outside hips need a rock-solid foundation to drive your pedal down. The more stable your hips are, the more force you can apply. This exercise focuses on that as your inside foot pushes into something that doesn’t move forcing the “kickstand” leg and outside hip to resist that force.
Great exercise that only takes you and something solid to pull off. A very simple thing to do that is anything but easy.
3. Suspension Strap Pallof Press:
Any variation of this exercise can help you build core strength. This version takes that up a level because YOU have to provide the force instead of having to resist something external. If you consciously produce force in each direction as your hands move, you’ll not only drive your heart rate through the roof, you’ll be working on building a rock-solid foundation to ride from. Win-win if you ask me!
This exercise “activates” (when trainers use “quotes,” the chances of muscular discomfort go up btw) the obliques, lats from pulling the hands back into the body, core as it provides your movement platform, the glutes as your lower body anchor and pretty much every muscle in the body as it’s intended to fire.
The Top of The Hill
There you go. Three ways to undo the repetitive nature of cycling. Three ways to build strength off the bike to have more fun (READ: beat your friends uphill. I SEE YOU!) on it. Three very effective exercises to prevent cycling aches and pains from developing.
Especially if you get a bike fit. This is where you shake your head up and down because you’re going to call your local bike shop to schedule one. Right?
Have an awesome time on your next ride!