Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Core Strengthening

It's no secret that strengthening your core improves cycling efficiency and enjoyment. For me, it never became important until I developed lower back pain. My problem stemmed from birthing two children and worsened over the years. I was an avid runner, competing in local races. Because of creaking hips and stiff back I eventually cut back mileage, which mostly helped. When I began to feel similar discomfort while cycling, I visited a physical therapist.

We concentrated on easing the tension in my lower back. Heat and repeated stretches helped. Then we started strengthening my belly, which meant repeated versions of lunges. Eventually I gave up the appointments and continued the exercises at home.

For the past year I've developed my own core workout. Before I get out of bed, I complete the back stretches, and move on to - get this - bicycle crunches! Lie on your back. Lift and "pedal" your legs, while both hands are behind your head. Move an elbow to the opposite knee, pull back and continue with the other side. I never loved the traditional sit ups and these are much easier, yet I feel the improvement in my belly. I started with 20 reps and now I'm up to 150. When that became too easy I replaced some of those with crisscrossing sit ups, using stationary bent knees.

It's a mere 10 minutes to complete the entire routine yet it's made a huge improvement in my health. While I have given up running, I can now ride without painful twinges. Sometimes you do what you gotta do - especially when it interferes with cycling!

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