By Martin Sigrist
If you have an inner tube that is punctured beyond repair don’t throw it away, it could make you both fitter and faster.
Old inner tubes can easily be repurposed, they make great resistance bands that can be used in training to build strength, train stability and “distract” joints whilst doing mobility exercises (that is apply tension to a specific area of a joint to lock it into an ideal position while moving it).
Here’s an example. It’s a simple exercise that anyone can do and everyone should do.
This is not hyperbole, it takes less than a minute and addresses an issue that almost everyone has, especially cyclists.
That is rotating our shoulders forwards. We do this when sitting, many do while walking and as cyclists we even do this when exercising. The result is poor posture and a host of associated ills.
How can an inner tube help fix this?
Simple. Just get one and use it to perform this workout.
If using a normal inner tube is too tough simply cut it into long strips and use them, adding extra as you get stronger (or use a latex one).
Get into the habit of doing this once per day. An ideal time is after a bike ride. The shoulders will be rounded after hours in the saddle and this will get them back into the place they should be.
Another alternative is first thing in the morning. Most people will sleep with their shoulders rounded and after spending the whole night in this position this is a great way to reset them.
You will feel better and most likely will look better if you have a rounded back.
And you could be faster too.
When riding a bike your legs are exerting a force, the more force the faster you go.
That force is being directed downwards. For it to be acting with maximum efficiency it needs to be exerted from a solid foundation. If your torso is weak and floppy it is a bit like running in sand, much of your effort is being wasted.
The exercise above is all about building “stability”. That is establishing a sold base from which force can be delivered with maximum effect.
Stability is partly about reteaching muscles how to work properly and the drill does that.
But is also about building awareness of how your body should, ideally, work.
The shoulders are the most complex joint in the body and most people only use them for about 10% of their normal range. So they lose touch with what they are actually meant to do.
When riding experiment with feeling the same engagement of your shoulder blades pulling down and together. Lightly grip the bars and imagine you are doing the same movement as with the inner tube. Obviously the bars won’t bend (if they do you are doing the wrong sport!) and this is not a workout, the idea is just to feel a bit of tension, taking up the slack in your upper body. At the same time feel your core muscles around your abdomen lightly engage and breathe from your abdomen not your chest by using your diaphragm.
The result can be a double double whammy. Your body is stable so you exert force with efficiency. You open up your chest so that you can breathe freely. While you feel a gentle tension where it is needed the rest of your upper body is relaxed and relaxing the muscles that do not directly contribute to power means you use up less energy and feel better. And if you keep your neck relaxed keeping your chin down you will probably be in a lower position so more aerodynamic.
All of this from an inner tube that might have otherwise ended up in the trash.
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.