I would class myself as a leisure cyclist doing family bike rides, including taking our bikes to the Vendee in France this summer - a great place with fantastic bike tracks and the Atlantic breeze to cool you down!
Last Sunday, I ventured on a 40km bike race with Cycletta, fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Cycletta arranges women only bike rides around the UK and is supported by Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendelton! It was with much trepidation that I set off into the misty Sunday morning! Would I manage the 40km? Would my 8 year old son be disappointed in his mother having told her the day before that she must not be last?!!
I set off with about 800 others around the undulating roads of Cheshire on my trusty mountain bike. My mission was to finish and was going for the tortoise as opposed to the hare approach. I enjoyed watching the mist lift and the autumnal sun break through! I was able to observe the beautiful countryside and admire some of Cheshire’s amazing residences! I also enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow cyclists who would check you were ok if you had stopped at the side of the road when peeling off a layer or two.
Whist cycling on my own, I was also able to appreciate the benefit of my Pilates practice to my cycling. Some of the roads were not in the best condition with gravel and pot holes. Under these circumstances, having a strong core was essential to ensure you stayed on the bike and did not end up in a pot hole! I was also conscious when going around corners at speed how this also helped to stabilise. Also, in everyday life most of us do not tend to put weight through our arms for a sustained period of time. The Pilates exercises where you weight-bear through the arms such as those in all fours are good preparation for leaning on the handlebars. These exercises improve the stability around the shoulder, elbow and wrist.
Lastly, thinking about the means of propulsion - the legs! The Pilates exercises working on both flexibility and control of movement through range of the legs meant that not only did I achieve the 40km in a respectable 2hrs 11mins (and not last!) but (I think this is the best bit) did not feel it the following days!!! The fact that I followed the ride with various stretches and exercises including the roll down (that may have raised a few eyebrows) will have had helped towards this as well. I am a true believer that knowledge is power and knowing how to help yourself is a great thing!
Obviously I am not the only one who has realised the benefits of Pilates in cycling. Bradley Wiggins puts it brilliantly by saying “Without a solid core you can't transfer power efficiently, and you'll be left with dust in your eyes, however strong your legs are”.
Victoria Pendleton does Pilates as part of her training regime too, and recommends it as part of the training programme for Cycletta bike rides. I even had the pleasure of meeting the inspiring Queen of British Cycling after finishing the race, back in the comfort of her cycling gear rather than the heels and sparkles of “Strictly Come Dancing”.