When World War I broke out in 1914, Joseph Pilates, a German citizen found himself in England, where he was interned for the duration of the war. At the time Pilates was earning a living as a circus performer and a boxer. Pilates was determined to maintain his fitness in prison, so he developed a series of floor exercises which formed the basis of Pilates as we know it today. After WWI, Pilates briefly went back to Germany and then immigrated to the States, where he set up a studio in New York and taught Pilates for 40 years until his death in 1966.
WHY PILATES IS GOOD FOR CYCLISTS
In 1965, the 86 years Pilates said, “I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” The joy of Pilates is that it can be done by anyone at any fitness level. It improves posture, flexibility and develops that core strength which is so essential for cyclists. Many Pilates studios use the analogy that our bodies are like trees. A tree is only as strong as its roots and trunk; our bodies need a strong core (chest, abdomen, back and buttocks) to help prevent all those niggling injuries which mar our daily rides – Pilates exercises will produce a strong core. Like most sports, cycling builds strength in one part of the body. With cycling, it is our legs which become highly definitioned, while the rest of our body often doesn’t measure up! Pilates gives you a balanced workout which not only strengthens the whole body but also promotes flexibility.
CORE STRENGTH STAVES OFF FATIGUE
Tired cyclists are immediately noticeable by the way their trunks goes from side to side rather than remaining upright and static in the saddle. Developing core muscles assists cyclists to remain upright in the saddle while allowing their legs to do all the work thus staving off inevitable exhaustion, a poor performance and injury.
STABILITY AND BALANCE
Regular Pilates exercise not only improves core stability, it also helps with limb alignment. This will prevent the ankles or knees twisting while pedalling. The results are twofold – ankle and knee injuries will be avoided and pedalling will be much more efficient. A stable core means better balance on the bike and less likelihood of a fall. Cyclists are slowly beginning to realise the importance of core strength in their success. Women have been doing Pilates for years but men have steered away, not understanding what a tough workout that hour of Pilates can be. Now, men are slowly coming to understand that doing Pilates on a regular basis gives them the core strength which is essential, not only for cycling but for everyday life. Wade Wallis wrote, “Riding with a weak core can be compared to putting a Porsche engine in a Hyundai chassis. You can have all the power in the world but with a weak chassis the power will dissipate elsewhere.” Remember to wear your reflective safety vest or reflective belt when out on the road.