Keeping fit in the winter isn't the easiest - the nights are long, it's cold all the time and all the roads are buried under leaves and grit, which apparently puts some people off riding. At times when going outside on your bike is less appealing, new activities will keep you mentally and physically fresh.
Cross-training means combining different sports with your cycling to help improve your performance. only riding your bike can lead to imbalances in your body; overworked muscles become stronger and larger while others not worked will shrink and weaken, which can cause injury.
A great way to engage these under used muscles is incorporating Cross-training in to your off season. For example, cyclists often have strong and tight abdominals and hip flexors due riding in a bent-over position, which means the hamstrings and lower back muscles become long and weak. Exercise that works your body in a different way will help to balance this out and may prevent injury occurring.
Cycling is a non-weight-bearing sport. Repeated load-bearing, such as running or lifting weights, help increase bone density, which strengthens the bones and reduces likelihood of osteoporosis. Cyclists who do no load-bearing exercise may suffer low bone-density, so doing some is a good idea.
However, what is a disadvantage to some may be an advantage to others and many people cycle for the very reason that it is non-weight-bearing. If you have injuries that are aggravated by weight-bearing activities, only do those that don't cause you any pain or problems.
Also, if you're worried about a lack of time for your regular long rides during the short days, doing other sports or specific sessions can help. It's much easier to find time for a short run than a long bike session. These will not only have muscular benefits but will allow you to maintain your cardio fitness with similar intensities as you would on the bike.
Here are a few cross-training suggestions to try.
Strength & Conditioning
Strength training will make you stronger, faster, fitter, and just plain happier on your bike. Plus, it will help you ride longer with less pain
Its a simple equation, power = cadence multiplied by torque. Seeing as each rider's cadence on the bike tends to stay within a self-selected range, normally between 80-100rpm, the most effective way to increase your power is to put more force through the pedals at the same cadence. Weight training increases the force with which your muscles can contract. More force = more power = more speed. However, weight training doesn't just mean pumping iron in the gym, and there are many ways you can improve muscle power without taking out a gym membership.
Running is a great way to cram in a workout when you don't have time for a long ride or need to travel without your bike. It helps maintain aerobic fitness, keeps you in top climbing shape during the off-season, strengthens bone density and helps to maintain or even loses weight.
You can do these forms of resistance strength-training anywhere with no extra equipment.
Yoga improves your strength, flexibility, endurance, and focus, so you'll be comfortable for longer days on the bike. You'll also learn to focus your breath, which helps you breathe better on the bike. Pilates hones in on your core, which is crucial for coming out of every ride with a smile instead of a backache.
Not only is swimming a great way to stay fit throughout a cycling injury, but it also works as strength-training and cardio activity.
Swimming can help you build a strong core and lengthen your hip flexors, as well as increase your range of motion and breathing capacity. It's fairly easy on your body
Off Road Cycling
Finally, if you really don't want to give up the bike and with the benefits of cross training why not try riding off road. It gives a much more interval style workout than road cycling. This gives you a great top end hit at sudden steep climbs or slogs in the mud to help boost strength and power. As well as helping to improve pedal efficiency, bike handling it's a total body work out as you will be using your upper body to soak up lumps and bumps, lift your front wheel over trail obstacles and to gain extra power on steep climbs. Having to constantly shift your weight and centre of gravity to maintain traction and balance will challenge your trunk muscles in a way you will never experience on the road.
by Pip Jenkins