Here we are up in Tahoe City for Thanksgiving Weekend with the intention of lying around and relaxing. Maybe catching up on some work. Reading a couple of books. Cooking and tasting some new wines. Until the weather turned out to be around 50 degrees and sunny (not the rain/snow/sleet we were promised.) It just so happened we brought our mountain bikes up and since we dread the thought of packing them and not using them, we mountain biked 3 days straight in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Since I’m relatively new to mountain biking, I had to experience a sharp learning curve. I had to learn quickly how to use my core to manage the quick turns, rocks, sticks, jumps, whoopdy-doos, tree branches, overhanging boulders, steep and rocky climbs and descents, cliffs, ice, snow, and the occasional dog and mountain biker coming the other way. So I thought I’d share with you a great core exercise for cyclists that I learned from a phenomenal Physical Therapy group in England called Physical Solutions. Bob Wood, PT read my last blog and shared with me a different thought process about engaging the core. Instead of trying to consciously activate certain muscles of the core, he designed an exercise that forces the cyclist to use the core without having to consciously do so. And I love it! While on a trainer, or stationary bike (do not try this on the road or trail), get into your best cycling posture (elbows slightly bent, bend forward at the hips, neutral spine.) Pedal with a midrange resistance with a moderate cadence. Then get a very firm grip on the handlebars and WITHOUT MOVING YOUR BODY or leaning, try to push the handlebars to the left with both hands. Again, you are trying to keep your body in neutral the entire time. Obviously, the bike/handlebars will not move and your body doesn’t move, but you are engaging your core to stabilize yourself on your bike. Hold this posture for a few seconds and then push the handlebars to the right. Next try pushing the handlebars down for a few seconds and then pull up. Finally try rotating the handlebars to the right for a few seconds, and then to the left. What he’s trying to accomplish here is to engage the core REACTIVELY under destabilizing conditions. The key is doing it in all 3 planes of motion (side to side, up and down, and rotation.) Thus, your core learns to activate in all 3 planes in unstable conditions while you maintain a neutral spine so you stay ON your bike and manipulate the terrain rather than the terrain manipulating you!