How Pilates Helped Me with Biking Experience-Lisa Goddard
Imagine this…a sunny, warm day…you are in Northern California wine country on a bicycle with friends who are also cycling, feeling the warm breeze on your face as you coast over the “California Roll” (constant rolling hills typical for that region)…smell the Eucalyptus trees, Bay Laurel, Lavender and Anise. Sounds sweet doesn’t it?
Bicycling has always appealed to me. It was my major mode of transport until I got my first car in my late twenties. I still love mountain biking quietly in woods or on trails but my enjoyment of this sport was limited for a few years when I was experiencing a lot of lower back pain. During that phase I found that even a short ride would create pain and stiffness in my hips and lower back. Then I discovered Pilates and Yoga.
In conjunction with Physiotherapy, Pilates was a huge reason why my lower back rarely hurts today. However, when I booked a 6-day Bicycling/Wine Tasting trip in Northern California (through a company called Backroads) with a friend who regularly cycles 60 km in a day, I was a little concerned how my back would hold out. I trained to the best that my schedule would allow but I knew going in to it that I wasn’t physically prepared for the length of the routes planned on this trip. Kudos to the Backroads leaders for planning a lot of options for the riders in our group…My friend could get huge mileage and I needn’t if I chose not to…but everyone saw points of interest and visited the wineries. (Thank goodness for the van that picks you up when your body is done!)
On this trip we had stellar scenery, amazing meals, impressive wineries, top notch accommodations and friendly, knowledgeable guides. I would highly recommend the experience of traveling with Backroads…but six days on a bike (minimum 27 miles) was challenging for under-trained me! The good news was that, although I really appreciated a good massage for my sore legs and butt (that were still sore, incidentally, for two days after we finished riding! The sitbones took about a week to recover!), my back pain didn’t rear its ugly head once in 180 miles of biking!! I was relieved and a bit awed! I feel that I have to credit my pain-free back to good form on the bike which largely came from knowing Pilates. Pilates taught me where I need to activate in my deep powerhouse musculature (and where I need to relax) for ease of movement in the spine, hips and shoulders. The deep internal strength, stability and joint flexibility I have developed from practicing regular Pilates served me well through my six days on the bike.
I have to admit that I loved Northern California and I will return for sure…next time though I may have fewer days cycling and add in a bit more relaxing…those convertible cars looked pretty enticing!