Yoga and Pilates Conditioning for Cyclists

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12/3/2003| 0 comments
by Jane Beezer, MS

Yoga and Pilates Conditioning for Cyclists

Lack of flexibility can contribute to muscular imbalance, and eventually lead to injury.

As the competitive cycling season winds down, many athletes are already putting together next season?s annual training plan.   The typical training plan will include many miles in the saddle, lots of intervals, heart rate testing and power testing.   But too few athletes devote enough time to the flexibility portion of their training and conditioning plan.   Lack of flexibility can contribute to muscular imbalance, and eventually lead to injury.   An investment of as little as 3 hours per week during the Transition and Foundation Periods of your annual training plan can pay huge dividends come race season.   Although the traditional static stretching routine some athletes employ can help increase flexibility, Yoga and Pilates offer far superior methods of conditioning.   These conditioning programs offer a non-impact, whole body workout that work each muscle through its full range of motion.   <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>


Both Yoga and Pilates are considered in the mind-body genre of conditioning.   But before you think of sitting in a class chanting ?Ohm? while holding hands, think again, each can be a challenging workout.  


?Yoga? is a Sanskrit word that, roughly translated means, ?to join? as in mind and body.   The main tenets of this centuries old practice are based on exercise, breathing and meditation.   Over 100 schools of Yoga exist, but several of the more well known are Hatha, Kripala, and Ashtanga (often referred to as power yoga).   A yoga workout consists of a series of postures, or Asanas, that are performed in seamless, fluid motions.   The overall resulting benefits include improved muscle flexibility and strength as well as increased balance, alignment and proprioception.   In addition, each Asana is accompanied by controlled, deep breathing techniques, which not only aid in relaxation but also helps retrain the body to fully use the lungs.


Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-tees) training derives its name from inventor, Joseph Pilates, who began his work in the early 1920?s.   A self-trained athlete, Pilates drew on his experiences in skiing, gymnastics and diving to develop a series of exercises to aid in the rehab of hospital patients.   His original ?equipment,? nothing more than cords and springs attached to hospital beds, allowed bedridden patients to exercise against resistance.   This equipment evolved into the modern day machines utilized today in Pilates studios.   Pilates also developed an extensive series of exercises designed to be performed on a floor or mat.   These ?mat-based? exercises require no special equipment, but impart the same benefits as machine-based work.   These mat-based exercises will be the most available (and least expensive) option for cyclists.  


Pilates conditioning involves a series of dynamic movements and lifts designed to stretch, strengthen and balance the body.   One key to Pilates training is that each movement requires proper alignment of the pelvis, which in turn requires subtle torso movements that help strengthen the core body muscles important to cycling: transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, external and internal oblique and erector spinae.   Additional benefits include improved muscle flexibility, posture, and


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