Foundation Training’s Approach for Butt Seriously – Bicycling.com
By Selene Yeager
For me, it always starts in my knees—usually the left knee, around the upper inside “second kneecap” area, though it occasionally gives me an IT-band jab on the lateral side. It’s just a twinge at first. Then it gets more persistent, sending out emergency flares both on and off my bike. Fortunately, my back never pipes up, but for most of my riding friends, that’s where they receive their warning shots and lingering aches and pains. I heard from three of them this week alone.
The seat of this discomfort for many riders can be found, well, on their seat—or more specifically, it istheir seat. Why? Because we cyclists may be able to carve our initials in a windowpane with our steely cut quads and calves, but baby, we ain’t got back—or at least not strong back. Our buns, even if they look good in our spandex, are often largely inactive. One of my CrossFitter friends once quipped that you don’t need a butt to ride a bike—just two giant quads—which is kind of funny, until it’s not. It’s also close to the truth, says renowned spine researcher Stu McGill. “Typical cycling challenges the thighs and not really the gluteals. Sprinters use glutes for acceleration. Hill climbers use them out of the saddle. Otherwise you will see most cyclists with hypertrophied legs but the same could not be said for their glutes.” In any event, it’s always stuck me as kind of ironic that neglected glutes don’t give us a proverbial pain in the a**, but rather transfer their misery elsewhere. But that’s what they do, because when they’re weak, you’re less stable in the saddle and other muscles have to step in to do their job, causing a ripple effect that often results in pain in the back, knees, even feet.
Anyway, this week it was my right knee in a new spot, closer to the top, which I guess shouldn’t have surprised me. My right glute was stubbornly tight during my last massage and when I haven’t been training and racing my brains out, I’ve been comfortably plopped on my seat, frantically exercising my fingers on my keyboard. All that core (and yes, your core includes your hips and glutes, though they’re rarely included as such) work I routinely recommend? Yeah, that…Do as I say, as they say. And pathetic as it is, sometimes, especially when I’m riding lots, it takes the nudge of a niggle to prompt me to actually practice what I preach.
Obviously, I can only speak for myself here, but I’ve found that if I act quickly, it really doesn’t take much off the bike effort to get my rear in gear and quiet the nagging aches. Lots of things work, honestly—yoga, Pilates, quality core training sessions. I dabble in and enjoy them all, but I confess, once the season starts, I become less and less willing to spend lots of time on cross training because there are only so many hours in the day and I’m easily bored. That’s why I’m really happy to have found The Foundation by Eric Goodman, which I talked about here a couple of years back. It’s become my default fix when I’m out of whack (though the good Dr. Goodman would prefer I use the approach prophylactically instead—getting there Doc…getting there.)
Anyway, what I love about the Foundation’s approach is that it is grounded in glute activation—getting the whole posterior chain—upper back, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings—to step up to the plate and pull its weight as nature intended before we all sat so damn much. Though I could (should?) do the full 30-minute workout, I opt for what I call the Foundation Express, which clocks in at a cool sub-6 minutes and includes two key moves: The Founder, which as the name implies is the foundation of it all and the Woodpecker, which is a stagger-stepped version of the Founder.
It’s really uncomfortable when I do these. I’m shaking and breathing into my belly and willing those 5 to 6 minutes to just please end. But I feel better the instant I’m done. I even find myself occasionally breaking into a Founder while I’m making dinner, just because. Newly motivated to keep the pain of imbalances at bay, I’ve been practicing every morning again and as a result my pedaling has been smooth and ache free. As an unexpected bonus, the range of motion in my right shoulder, which I had unceremoniously yanked out of its socket in November, is improving, which is ironic, because the more exercises my physical therapist piled on, the less I was willing to do any of them, especially once I could comfortably fish food out of my jersey pockets. Now that I’m doing less, I’m making far greater gains.
Which maybe is the moral of this whole story. I talk to so many riders who do no cross training because they feel like unless they do something for at least 30 minutes it doesn’t really count. But when it comes to core strength and glute activation and keeping your body in relative balance, every minute, every moment actually does make a difference. One downward facing dog a day. One Founder a day. A few Pilates swans and Supermans. A few minutes of effort off your bike can reward you with pain-free years on it. The least you can do really is the least you can do, and it’s well worth the time.