Three ways to improve your cycling that are not cycling
Cycling may well be your favorite thing to do, it sure is one of mine. But particularly relevant at this time of year when the days are darker, the rides outside are fewer and further between, you may feel the desire to add a little bit of variety to your training.
Mixing up your training not only keeps you motivated but builds strength and can be great for recovery and injury prevention. Any time you can work on different muscle groups, balance, flexibility, or just something different, it’s going to be beneficial. And it’s not just about your legs. Conditioning your core and upper body is also pretty important for increased stability, endurance, and power.
That’s why in today’s blog we’ll be discussing the most effective cross-training sports for cyclists. These sports are fun and can help you train to be a better cyclist. Plus, who doesn’t want to shake things up every now and then?
When it comes to strength training, most cyclists don't know where to start. Integrating strength work can be confusing and frustrating, and this certainly isn’t a one size fits all. This will certainly require some homework on your end to tailor to your experience and goals.
In general, focus on lifts that enhance your cycling performance, rather than ones that promote aesthetic muscle growth. Think more squats, fewer barbell curls. Functional movement. If you can perform the fundamental movements well and have prior experience, I aim to do dynamic free weight exercises incorporating a push (ex: squats), a pull (ex: lunges) and one hinge movement (ex: kettlebell swings, deadlift, SLDL). If you are a beginner and only have a limited amount of time to train, you are unlikely to get to the point where you can perform these movements loaded to gain a training effect, and machine-based exercises are a good starting place. Dynamic exercises give a better return, but machines don’t require much skill and can, therefore, be loaded quite quickly to get the required changes in muscle performance.
Cycling is often seen as a great low impact cross-training opportunity for running but it also works the other way around.
The impact of running on your body will help to increase bone density because it is a weight-bearing exercise. That is something that cycling can’t give you due to its low impact on nature.
Don’t care for running? Start with walking and be humbled by what adding even an hour walk to your day can do. This is something I appreciate the importance of even more after throwing myself off my bike a few years ago and breaking my fibula. Stronger bones mean less chance of osteoporosis, and hopefully avoiding any nasty breaks if you do come off your bike—not a bad reason to swap the cleats for trainers.
It’s no secret that yoga holds a host of benefits for cyclists. It relieves tight, aching muscles after long or hard rides and not only help mobilize joints but strengthens the muscles around them too.
Strength in your core is important in any cycling discipline. Target exercises such as the plank, forearm plank, and straight leg raise where you are keeping your lower back pressed into the floor (in Tom’s book, he calls these Tim-berr).
Yoga is also really helpful for stretching and getting more flexibility, particularly if you’re needing to be in an aero position for long periods of time for things like time trialing. Stretching your pectoral/chest muscles is another key area to focus on if you spend a lot of time riding to counterbalance your position on the bike. Find a wall or door frame to quickly do this when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed.
Pigeon pose is the last cycling-specific pose I will vouch for being tremendously helpful when logging time on the bike, excellent for tight hips and hamstrings.
Like with any sport, consistency in yoga is rewarded. Practice as little as once or twice a week, maybe add a few yoga poses in with your CINCH core routine, and you’ll soon feel the benefits. After a while, the enhanced flexibility on the bike, better posture, and stronger body will transfer into improved cycling performance and efficiency.
At the end of the day, you do have to cycle to get better at cycling, but supplementing these sports into your training is one way to enhance your cycling performance while adding some fun and variety to your routine. You don’t need another gym membership or five extra hours in the day—start small and focus on easy ways you can implement a few new exercises into your daily process.
I am a 200 Hour RYT Yoga Instructor and am happy to answer any yoga questions you have, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My strength training background is primarily rooted in what I learned through programming I completed while pole-vaulting at the University of Wisconsin, and would be happy to provide insight from my experience on a regimen that would be suitable for your goals. On the running front, you are on your own—while I appreciate the benefits, these days I don’t pretend to be an expert, but rather an occasional participant.