Thursday, May 6, 2010

Core Exercises: Cross Training Mini Series Part 2

Read the first post about running in the Cross Training mini series.

"Take care of your core," is a piece of advice that athletes of almost every discipline willingly give to anyone who will listen.  And for good reason: if your core is weak, it will throw other muscle groups out of balance.  Specifically, if your core is weak, your lower back may over compensate, causing severe lower back tightness and pain.  Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way.

For about 6-8 months, I had been doing no physical exercise except mountain biking.  Suddenly, my lower back was in excruciating pain, and I was unable to ride.  I consulted those smarter than me, and they shed light on the fact that I had ceased to do any cross training of any kind. Before that time, I had always participated in multiple sports at the same time: running, rock climbing, downhill skiing, weight lifting, as well as mountain biking. Also, I had regularly done crunches, push ups, curls, and other at-home exercises.  Something happened, and I got lazy, or thought that those time-consuming exercises didn't benefit my cycling.  I was wrong.

Over the past couple of months, I have been striving to do an at-home core workout at least 3 times per week.  I've been including crunches or sit ups, (currently at about 2 sets of 25 per workout, looking to build from there) and have also been doing several new exercises that have really been working my abs and my core.

One of them is called the superman. To do it, lie on your stomach, and lift your right arm and your left leg, put them down, then lift your left arm and your right leg. I've been doing 2-3 sets of 10 reps, and am looking to build to 3 sets of 15 reps per work out.

Random Exercise that Turned Out to Be Serious Work
I also read in an old issue of National Geographic's Adventure Magazine about an exercise where you begin on your hands and knees, and then stand up with your hands on the floor, forming an upside down V with your body, with your butt as the point of the V and your head hanging down; then hold for 1 minute. It sounds simple, but I was surprised to discover that it was serious work! I'm currently at only one 1 minute hold of that position per workout, but am looking to build to at least 3. In addition to being an intense core workout, it is also stretches out the calf muscles brilliantly!

As a result of these exercises, my lower back has been hurting less and less, and I have been back on my bike for a while after the initial incident.  I have made it a point to be consistent with these exercises and to take of my core.  You should as well!

Does anyone else have some good ab/core exercises that they'd wish to share?  I'm up for adding more to my routine!

Don't forget, the 3 people with the best comments before Wednesday the 12th get a free water bottle!  So comment away!


Ellen May 6, 2010 at 2:39 PM  

Hi Greg-

I've been reading your post for a few weeks and really enjoying it! I live in Roxborough, CO between Littleton and Castle Rock, so lots of access to Front Range riding. I had a few general comments relative to your cross training series:

1) If you ride a lot and are just starting to run, don't push too hard too fast. I made that mistake this spring ... pushing to 4 and 6 mile distances within two weeks of starting to run. I'm paying the price with some very sore knees right now.

2) A good pilates routine 2 to 3 times a week provides big benefits to core strenth and overall flexibility. Just be sure to pay attention to good form to maximize the benefit.

3) Get a high density foam roller (~$25) and learn how to roll out your IT band. This has made a huge difference in my overall flexibility and capability on the bike.

Random thoughts, but hope they help!


Kaitlynn,  May 6, 2010 at 8:09 PM  

I concur, Pilates definately work your core.

I also know a few simple core exercises from cross country that I can show you this weekend.

Greg Heil May 8, 2010 at 10:32 AM  

@ Ed and Ellen, thanks for reading! I will definitely look into pilates and a foam roller. Also, thanks for the running advice. I do tend to push myself too hard too fast, so I'll try to mentally hold back a bit. Good stuff!

@ Kaitlynn, that'd be cool! Can't wait to see you!

Greg Heil May 14, 2010 at 5:55 PM  

Hey Ed and Ellen, you won a free water bottle in my little contest!

But, you didn't leave me a way of contacting you. Shoot me an email at g.gaheil AT gmail DOT com (no spam), or leave me a comment here with some sort of contact information. I will hook you up with a free Airborne Bicycles water bottle!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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