What would you do if you were gifted an afternoon of free time? I’m guessing that, like all of us, you would pack in as many miles on the bike as possible. But what if you’ve already reached your ride time goals for the week? What if you’ve exceeded them? Sometimes, for whatever reason, it can be hard to find motivation for another ride on the same old route. If you find yourself struggling to motivate for a ride, don’t fret or feel guilty, just get in a cross training session!
Cross training is a fun and effective way to stay fit in the off season, and keep mentally fresh during race season. Most cross training suggestions for cyclists, however, are filled with gym workouts. Strength training—whether with weights or other support/resistance equipment—is very effective, and an important component of any active human’s fitness regime. But, indoor workouts tend to be BORING! Sweating away inside a gym, repeating the same movement or posture over and over again is not what homo sapiens was designed for. Humans are meant to move! Use all your muscles! Stimulate your mind as well as your body! To that end here are five activities that will benefit your cycling and give you something to look forward to as well.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding—Talk about a full-body work out; SUP engages your muscles from trapezius to soleus, and everything in-between. Plus, there is something energizing about being out on the water; colors are more vibrant, you can breathe deeper, and the air feels charged. SUP is especially effective in strengthening core balance muscles, which will directly translate to better bike handling. Keep in mind, SUP is a powerful upper body workout, so if you view deltoids and lats as excess ballast, limit sessions to the off season. If you SUP in salt water, stay far away from traditional paddle surfers.
Basketball—A great way to fuel your competitive fire when off the bike without alienating your friends, basketball also complements the fitness needed to thrive in the attacking nature of a bike race. While on a bike your movement is incredibly limited, on the court you will be jumping, spinning, whirling and contorting, helping to increase range of motion and strengthening your core support muscles. If the threat of a twisted knee or ankle is too much, either make sure you are always sprinting down court for an easy fast break-two, or work on your long-range game and camp out at the three point line waiting for the open shot.
Nordic Skiing—Cross country skiing uses many of the same muscles as cycling, but in an increased range of motion. Similar to riding on a windless day with a freshly-tuned, silent running bike, gliding over fresh snow through the woods on a pair of skis encourages an overwhelming feeling of contentment; a joining of your spirit and the environment . Workouts are easily transferable from cycling, as heart rates tend to be similar between the two disciplines, and even cadences can be translated. Remember that the “diagonal” stride more closely mimics cycling than the “skate” stride, but each style is beneficial.
Trail Running—Any running will benefit your cycling, but trail running will create more spikes in your metabolic effort, akin to attacking or encountering climbs in a bike race. Also, trail running engages stabilizing muscles in your hips, knees, and ankles, which will help with keeping lateral leg movement in check when pedaling. Plus, it’s fun to run the trails you normally ride, giving you time to scout new lines and find the little bumps and lumps that make mountain biking fun. If you are a road cyclist, then you spend enough time on the pavement already—trail running will give you something new to look at.
Yoga—Yes, yoga is usually associated with being inside a studio and doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but you can always put your mat outside. Increasing flexibility and joint strength are two of the most beneficial attributes of yoga workouts for cyclists, but the list doesn’t end there. Breathing techniques, increased ability to ignore pain, overuse-injury prevention and learning to effectively calm your mind are all available to those who choose to incorporate yoga into their routines.
There you have it; a few ideas for challenging your body and your mind in a fun way that will also make you better on the bike. Now all you need is a free afternoon…