Welcome to our summer, outdoor fitness series. This month we’re featuring weekly exercises from THE BIG BOOK OF CYCLING FOR WOMEN by certified personal trainer, triathlete, and bestselling professional health and fitness author, Selene Yeager. No matter where you fall on the cycling spectrum, you know that great things happen when you toss your leg over a bike: freedom, empowerment, increased energy, stress release, better sleep, and let’s not forget a killer, fit body. This week’s focus is on core strength training which will produce a solid pedaling platform and protection for your spine.
A stronger core not only supports better posture, proper blood flow, and spine alignment, but it also helps to prevent injury, especially in your back and your abdominal organs. Moreover, studies show that it’s beneficial to not only competitive athletes but to anyone who stresses their back throughout the day.
Also, for Selene Yeager, professional mountain bike racer, Ironman triathlete, and author of The Big Book of Cycling for Women, it’s a vital addition to a routine.
“When your core is weak, you not only slow down, but you are also at higher risk for hurting yourself,” she writes. “You need core strength to create a solid pedaling platform and prevent back pain.”
Cyclists, no matter their experience level, can experience fatigue in their core muscles, Yeager notes, and when they do, their pedal stroke changes, their knees sway, and they increase their risk for injury. So if you’re experiencing the “cyclist’s slump” — or could use some work on your posture — improving your core muscles is a must.
“These moves that follow strengthen your side and obliques as well as key muscles in your middle and lower back to help reverse the cyclist’s slump and better support your spine,” Yeager writes. “Do one or two sets of each move, resting for 15 seconds between exercises. Aim for three sessions a week. If time permits, tack the routine onto the end of a ride.”
Plank with Alternating Knee Drops
How to do it: Start in standard plank position with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your body in a straight line. In a controlled motion, drop your left knee to the ground. Return it to starting position, and repeat the motion with your right knee. Complete 15 reps.
How to do it: Lie down on your back, with your knees bent a few inches from your backside (with your arms extended, you should be able to brush your fingertips against your heels). Slowly, squeeze your glutes together and raise your hips to the sky, keeping your hips in-line with your knees and shoulders. Slowly lower your hips down and repeat. Complete 20 reps.
How to do it: Lying on the floor, place your palms underneath your glutes. Raise your shoulders off the ground and raise your legs a few inches off the ground, scissor-kicking them left to right. Complete 30 reps.
How to do it: You can use sliders (or a piece of paper) for this core burn workout. Start in pushup position, and bring your right knee into your right elbow. Return to pushup position and repeat the motion with your left knee. Speed up the process, as if you’re horizontally climbing a mountain. Complete 15 reps on each leg.
How to do it: Take a side plank position on your left forearm, stacking your feet on top of one another. Raising your right arm into the air, along with your hips, then lower your arm to your side. Complete 15 reps and then switch to the opposite side.
How to do it: Lie down on the ground facedown, keeping your arms at your side. Pick up your right leg, twisting your core and reaching your right foot across your back toward your left palm. Return it to the beginning position and repeat on the other side. Complete 15 reps on each side.
Fitness routines courtesy of Rodale, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2015 from The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women by Selene Yeager.
Photo Credit: iStock