During the off-season, many cyclists will benefit from both a physical and a mental break from riding their bike. Cross-training exercises are a great way to take a rest from cycling and fill some of the fitness gaps that cycling alone can miss.
Tom Bell, an elite cyclist from the UK, shares his top 4 cross-training exercises that will help you stay fit, strong, and motivated throughout the winter.
Running is a great cross-training activity for several reasons:
- Easy Sport to Get Involved In. You will only need to equip yourself with a pair running shoes and some general sports clothes before you can head out and get moving.
- Time Efficient Way to Exercise. You will be able to pack in a lot of aerobic work in a relatively short space of time. When the weather is bad outside, this can be really helpful.
- Less Windchill Than Cycling. When you run in the cold and wet, you won’t get as much windchill as you would with cycling. It can, therefore, be a more enjoyable way to workout during bleak winter days.
Be careful to ease into running slowly though. Make sure you keep your initial runs slow and short for the first week or two.
Hiking can be a great way to stay fit as a cyclist during the off-season. Compared to running, it is not as demanding on the muscles and tendons, since the level of impact is less. It’s therefore a sensible choice for those who find running too stressful.
Hiking will allow you to perform some longer duration exercise, which can help with maintaining endurance. It also helps in developing muscles that don’t get used as much when sat on a bike e.g. the hip flexors and calf muscles.
Similar to running, hiking is an easy activity to take up. All that’s needed is some walking boots (or off-road trainers), and some basic outdoor clothing.
Swimming is a little bit more involved than the previous two exercises, but has its own set of unique benefits.
The key plus point is that swimming is a non-impact sport, so is far easier on the joints and muscles. This can really help when you’re transitioning from riding the bike to doing a totally different sport.
Getting in the pool will again allow you to work muscles that get somewhat neglected through cycling alone e.g. the core and upper body. The resistance of the water and the whole-body nature of swimming can help to ward off weakness and injury. It will also help with overall flexibility.
4) Weight Training
Lifting weights is something that a lot of cyclists have typically shied away from due to fears of bulking up. However, weight training is one of the best things a cyclist can do to get faster and ward off injuries when they’re not actually riding a bike.
Use the winter or off-season to work on areas of your body that you feel are particularly weak. Common areas are the hamstrings at the back of the leg, the lower back, and the obliques (the muscles to the side of your core).
Bodyweight exercises, especially for core strength training will often be enough, but don’t be afraid to add some weight or resistance as you get stronger and want to develop specific exercises. If you’re unsure where to start or how to do certain exercises correctly, always consult someone who knows what they’re doing. Bad form can do far more harm than good.
Try some of these cross-training exercises for yourself and you should come out the other side of winter with greater fitness and a strong desire to get back on the bike.
About Tom Bell
Tom is an elite-level professional cyclist from the UK, specialising in cross-country mountain bike racing.
In addition to an international racing schedule, Tom also coaches athletes and creates content to help other cyclists and mountain bikers improve their training and race performances. This includes everything from podcasting, to YouTube videos and blog posts.
Tom’s athletic goals for the year include a podium finish at the UK National Championships, to represent Team GB at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships, and to have a strong performance in the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup.
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