“What? Wait, wait, wait.” You might be thinking, “Just why on earth is some shaggy, professional cyclocross racer offering us triathletes unsolicited advice about how to train?” At first glance value, it seems a valid point. But, dig a little deeper and, you’ll notice the demands that we place on our bodies both in and out of competition.
Cyclocross is one brick shy of a triathlon load. Some of the muddiest races in Europe can have us off the bike and running for 10 to 15 minutes during an hour-long race. I spend three to four days a week off the bike, sprinting up stadiums or jogging long steady miles. Throw in a lifelong surfing addiction, and my body probably thinks I’m more triathlete than professional bike racer. Whether paddling around the ocean, pedaling up a climb or sprinting around a track, the following core exercises keep my body primed for all the stress it experiences in the name of fun and employment.
As a triathlete, you’ll find that these exercises not only build your strength and stability during competition, they will also help alleviate back pain while sitting and sleeping, while keeping your body in tip top shape for swimming, running, biking and beyond. I perform all these in my living room to the soothing sounds of NPR or Metallica, depending on my mood. All are generally performed with body weight, but I’ll occasionally add a medicine ball or kettle bell up to 10 pounds if I’m feeling extra frisky.
Performing these exercises three to four times per week makes a huge difference in and out of competition. Just thirty minutes of core work every few days will improve your running, biking, swimming and beyond.
These build strength in your glutes, hamstrings and abdominals. The glutes and hamstrings work to lift the hips while the abdominals stabilize the trunk during the kick. This ability for your core to activate during leg movements is an important skill during biking, running and swimming as a strong core helps to transmit forces across the body to coordinate movements. This produces more power with each pedal, stride and stroke.
Lie face up with knees bent. Lift pelvis toward the sky so only shoulders and feet are on the ground. Kick left leg forward making a straight line from torso to your toes. Hold three seconds. Repeat with right leg. Perform 10 reps both legs.
This static exercise will work the full body and recruit the small muscles that stabilize the joints and help with posture. It aids muscle endurance, as optimal race positions can be held longer. Good form and alignment mean stronger finishes toward the end of the race.
Assume the push-up position, but place forearms on ground instead of hands. Pretend there is a rod running from the top of your head to your heels. Hold for 30 seconds to start. Then shift onto right elbow and maintain the same straight body position, this time on your side. Hold for 30 seconds and switch to left side.
Even with body weight alone, these will build the quadriceps, glutes, calves and core. This strength will translate to more on the bike and while running.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and look straight ahead. Bend at the knees and stick your butt backward. Focus on maintaining balance without letting your knees drift in front of your feet. Keep you back straight from head to tailbone and look straight ahead. Once knees are bent to 90 degrees, slowly stand back up. Perform 10 reps.
Of my entire core routine, this has helped the most with back pain on and off the bike. It builds the glutes and hamstrings in a functional position so the muscles learn to activate and stabilize the back during activity. These will help with the power to push on every leg of your training and racing.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Hinge forward at the hips, and as you bend, keep looking forward. Focus on keeping back straight as you go lower by sticking your butt out and lifting your neck. As you reach the floor, you should feel your hamstrings and lower back working but not hurting. After touching the floor, hinge back to a standing position in a controlled movement. Perform 10.
These are another great exercise that will build back strength and give you more power and stability for running, biking and swimming. This exercise strengthens the muscles that travel along the spine thereby improving stability in the spine. This one is especially beneficial in reversing the curve of the spine, giving the back a reprieve from the forward flexed position that it experiences on the bike.
Lie face down on the floor with hands beside your head pointing forward. Arch your back and lift forward, lifting your arms, chest, quads and feet off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
These are great for bike handling as well as swimming since they build multiple muscles in the shoulders. They will also improve your resilience and overall fatigue resistance in the later legs of the race.
Lie face down with palms on the floor. Push arms until straight. Hold for a moment to complete one rep. Lower chest back to the floor in a controlled manner. Keep back straight and focus on pulling shoulder blades together. Repeat 10 times.