Training your body to become more streamlined on the bike should be one of your key priorities this winter. It will not only help you to more speed, but will ensure you conserve energy for the run, too. And to achieve this aerodynamic goal, you need to build a strong core. But more of that later…
Before you begin working on your core, it’s vital that you get your bike set-up spot on. The importance of achieving the correct set-up mustn’t be overstated. In the short term, getting it wrong can lead to issues that might not appear until on the run like a stitch. This could be due to a squashed-up stomach.
In the long term, regularly riding with a closed hip angle can result in a restricted range of movement, which is more noticeable during running. Combined with a weak core, this can result in a running posture that resembles the position you’d normally assume as you’re about to sit down. As you can guess, this is far from ideal.
AERO IN THE GYM
Once you’ve achieved your optimum bike set-up, how can you build a body strong enough to hold that aerodynamic position? We’d recommend the following two methods. First of all, increase flexibility through a controlled programme of stretching and sports massage. This will improve both the position you are able to hold and the movement of your limbs, thereby giving you every opportunity to run to your potential.
Secondly, a conditioning programme that emphasises strengthening your back and core muscles. This will allow you to hold the position in more comfort and for longer, while also ensuring your legs deliver the power you desire to the pedals.
Both of these elements are covered in the two workouts cited here.
There’s no need to go to a gym for either of these sessions because you can do all of the exercises described at home. Fit them in after a steady bike or run twice a week, so that they become less of a demand on your time than gym work, and you’ll be better conditioned as a result.
As the title suggests, you’ll need a stretch cord for the exercises below. For the second set (bottom), you’ll need a Swiss ball. Instead of doing a set number of reps for each exercise, try working through the exercises, doing each for a set duration. Maintain a good rhythm, taking 2secs to apply the exercise and 2secs to release, continuing for 40secs. Then repeat the sets two or three times, looking towards gradually increasing the duration and number of sets as you get stronger.
When starting these exercises, wherever possible think about using a little less resistance in order to concentrate on technique, allowing your body time to adapt to the correct movement patterns. After a couple of weeks of regular training and you’ve become accustomed to the exercises, increase the resistance so that you feel a gentle burn. This should come as you reach the tail-end of each exercise.
STRETCH CORD EXERCISES
With one or two feet on the stretch cord, start with your hands together in front of your abdomen. Keeping your elbows pointing out, lift your hands up towards your chest, then lower back down gently.
Standing with your arms relaxed by your side, lift your shoulders in a classic ‘shrug’ movement, pulling on the stretch band as you do so. Slowly lower your shoulders to the starting position.
Run the stretch band across you to a door handle, keeping your elbow at 90°. Slowly rotate your hand outwards by squeezing your shoulder blade towards your spine. Return slowly.
Lying prone on the floor with hands gently touching your temples, lift your upper body off the floor while making sure your hips and feet stay touching the floor. Slowly return to your starting position.
Stand upright with hands next to shoulders, palms forward. Push hands up in a gentle curve until they meet above your head with arms nearly straight. Gently return to
your starting position.
SWISS BALL EXERCISES
Forearms on the ball, knees on the floor. Slowly roll the ball out using your forearms, keeping a straight torso. Stop when you start to shake, and slowly roll the ball back.
Straight line from your shoulders (on the floor) to your feet (on the ball). Gently lower your bottom towards the floor, then squeeze your glutes to slowly lift your hips back up.
With your toes on the floor and your forearms on the ball, lift and drive one knee at a time forward until it touches the ball. Keep a straight line between your shoulders and your ankles at all times.
Starting in a press-up position with your knees on the Swiss ball, slowly walk your hands forward until your feet are resting on the ball. Then slowly walk back to the starting position.