Core Training and Recovery
There’s a visual picture I’ve found myself using lately during my indoor trainer rides… it’s a little odd, but it helps get the job done. It’s a visualization of Egyptian pyramids. I don’t know much about them, but I know they’ve withstood the test of time. And I know they were constructed in a way where the foundation dictated just how strong, tall or large they could be.
And then I picture myself as a pyramid, and each of my long-and-sometimes-grueling indoor trainer rides strengthening that inner foundation of the pyramid. Like I said, a little odd, but it helps get the job done.
Our bodies are structures. They can only function with reliability to the extent that we strengthen our foundation and core. They can only perform with reliability when they’ve had time to recover and mend in between tough workouts or intervals.
Sometimes I think we get so caught up in getting faster, that we forget our abilities will only grow and improve with careful attention being paid to the “stuff beneath the surface.” And by that “stuff,” I mean the strengthening of our core & stabilizing muscles, and the invisible recovery of our muscles and tendons from the microtraumas they are subjected to every time we perform stressful, repetitive activity.
I admit it, I love recovery. However, I used to think it was the most pointless part of training under the sun. Then I got injured once, twice, and well, a few times beyond that…and now I think it ought to be the 5th discipline of triathlon training. (The 4th being transition, in case you are wondering.) So now, after spending hours and hours and hundreds of dollars on physical therapy, and after studying through my first-half of clinical massage therapy school, I know with absolute certainty that recovery is of utmost importance if we want to not only continue growing as athletes, but if we also want to continue being physically active for years to come.
Here are some simple things we can pick-and-choose to do in between workouts to baby ourselves and to mend our weary muscles:
- Foam Rolling
- Forward Lunge (lengthens the psoas & iliacus muscles—aka “iliopsoas” muscle)
- Pigeon (stretches our piriformis & glute muscles)
- Side Lunge (or Tree Pose) — Adductor muscles
- Pecs & Anterior Delts (prayer pose behind back)
- Hamstring stretch
- Calf stretches
- Foot love! (roll a tennis ball or golf ball under your foot)
- Forearm flexor & extensor stretches
- Ice stressed/inflamed muscles for 10-20 minutes after activity
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Stay well hydrated. Our muscles are directly affected by how hydrated we are. They’ll love us if we hydrate them, and they’ll make our lives miserable if we don’t.
There are so many core strength-training moves out there, and so many variations on top of those, that it can almost paralyze one into not doing anything at all. Here are just three of the exercises that I’ve found to be enormously helpful as a cyclist & triathlete:
- Forearm plank (strengthens lower back, rectus abdominis, obliques & shoulders….think aero-position!)
- Glute bridge with alternating single-leg extension (strengthens all glute muscles and hip stabilizers—critical for cycling power& stability!!)
- Single-leg balance on bosu ball, dyna disk, or wobble board. You can continually advance on this one by increasing the length of time you are able to balance, or with adding instability by what you do with your other leg or with your arms. E.g., Try moving the free leg into adduction/abduction, or flexion or extension. Or try holding a small medicine ball in one hand and passing it from hand-to-hand, over and behind the body.
The Experience Triathlon coaching staff can help you customize a recovery and strength conditioning plan that fits your lifestyle, needs and goals. We are also available for private instruction and personal training services.
Our bodies are our own wonderful, individual gifts from God. We’ve got them forever, and the potential within us all is limitless… but only in as much as we strengthen ourselves from the inside out, and only in as much as we are proactive in our recovery. Treat your muscles like a small child who needs constant nurturing and constant watching-over. Listen to them (your muscles), and respond accordingly. Sense aches before they become a problem. And trust that every time you do something mundane for your core or for your recovery, that you are truly growing as an athlete.
Sarah Farsalas is a USA Cycling Level III certified coach with Experience Triathlon. As a cycling coach, Sarah helps athletes improve riding skills, body strength, training performance and race day speed using time-tested scientific training methods. She has a special interest in helping new riders enter the wonderful world of cycling. Learn more about Coach Sarah and Experience Triathlon at www.experiencetriathlon.com