Words by: Francesca Pioli
Francesca Pioli (Frankie) is a sports physiotherapist based out in Chamonix in the heart of the French Alps. Her client base consists of anyone from; elite athletes, Olympic gold medallists, mountain professionals, ultra-runners, to locals who keep the valley going. During the winter season of 2019-2020 she travelled to all contests working with the national Swiss Free-ski team, including the Aspen X-Games. She has always channelled her own passions for outdoor sports into her work; moving location to partake in her own sporting ventures but also to complement her work as a physiotherapist.
Frankie grew up surfing and competed on the UK pro circuit for many years, before moving to the alps in 2017. She was also fortunate to grow up ski racing as a child, so moving to the alps was no shock to the system. Mountain biking had always been a background passion for Frankie while living in Wales in the mecca that is the Dyfi forest, until now. Living in the Alps in the summer months with no surf or skiing, something had to fill the gap, now it seems that something is her main obsession.
Entering a few, and podiuming at all amateur mountain bike endure races (pre-pandemic) Frankie discovered a new buzz for biking, not only exploring.
Being an accomplished athlete, she understands the demands on the body from sport and the importance of keeping healthy, injury free and at your peak ready to perform. Frankie has trained in teaching Pilates and Yoga as she believes these are great foundations to achieving physical fitness and performance.
Frankie’s Top Tips:
Aerobic training- Give yourself a good foundation of aerobic fitness so you can focus on pushing hard on the down-hills and not get phased by the up-hills. Here in the Alps for example, it can be hard to find the motivation to brave the snowy and slightly sketchy winter trails, so finding another activity with a similar aerobic element to do during the winter is a life saver when it comes to spring biking. Ski touring, Nordic skiing or running are good options, especially if you enjoy getting outside. Another option, and one that I fully endorse, is a turbo trainer. There is so much technology available out there to help you track your training, progress, and set some goals. Smart trainers combined with Zwift training software (one of many), or simply a Garmin or other smart watch can create training plans for you. I am currently using a Garmin watch to create training plans which is paired with a smart trainer. Zwift for example offers great training programs targeted at different cycle disciplines, not just road biking!
Core strength – There are hundreds of exercises you can do for your core but here are a couple of my favourites. In a nutshell, it is so important to strengthen your core to help give you more stability on the bike. This will help you to hold on when you are maxing out at top speed, yet keeping calm and dialled, ready for that unexpected switch-back. If you can stay strong in your core, this can help your upper body remain relaxed and ready to adapt to any sudden change in terrain. If you are unsure what we mean by ‘core’, it includes so much more than your abdominals. We are talking diaphragm, transvers abdominals, obliques, pelvic floor, glutes, adductor, the whole lot. If all of those muscles mean absolutely nothing to you, do not worry! ‘Core’ is generally described as the muscles surrounding the pelvis (bums and tums), and in our case, it also means the stabilising muscles of the shoulders
Mobility- This is just as important pre-season as it is mid-season! In the video link you will find two mountain bike mobility hacks which every biker should know!
‘Pec stretch’- this focuses on all the pectoral muscles as well as the scalines which get particularly tight when we are repetitively hammering the downhills.
‘TFL release’ – Also known as the Tensor fascia latae, but that’s not important, what is important is knowing that this muscle often gets very tight and overused (also very common amongst skiiers). So what? Well, when it gets tight we can often get knee pain or back pain and other little niggles starting to appear, so it is a good one to keep on top of!