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I consider cross training for cycling a venture into total body fitness, not necessarily a big leap in cycling.  Riding your bike is the best way to become a better cyclist.  Cross training is the best way to become a better athlete and to prevent issues that can arise from only riding a bike.  As I mentioned before, I won’t cover core work and stretching, both of which should be part of your weekly cycling training and therefore not considered cross training for the purposes of this article.

Lifting  Weights:  Lifting weights is a major consideration for cyclists.  For one thing, chances are you are a weakling.  Secondarily, it also has the best chance of transferring over to cycling improvement.  If you have a coach who knows what they are doing, weight training can result in some off season gains directly related to cycling performance. There are some major considerations if you decide to delve into hitting the weights.

  1. Do you have experience with the equipment and lifts?  It is very easy to hurt yourself if you don’t know what you are doing.  If you don’t, start off slow and consider working with a trainer.
  2. Is your weight under control?  No matter how many articles I have read to the contrary, every person I have ever worked with that had a bigger body type seemed to really struggle to cut weight and hit the gym at the same time.  I recommend concentrating on cutting weight first and then bringing in weight training once the diet is in the right direction.
  3. Do you have access to a gym?  Sometimes a gym membership just isn’t feasible.  If you can’t get to a gym, you can do quite a bit of work with some simple 20 lb. dumbbells and resistance bands.

Running:  Many cyclists have a running history and a running seems like a very compatible endurance sport with cycling.  I tend to agree that running is a great way to maintain fitness; however it is a serious foray into injury-ville if not done properly.  Runners get hurt or are hurt more than any other athletes I deal know.  Most of the injuries are nagging, small items.  My best advice is to start off very slow, very short, and even walk the down-hills.    After you get used to running, it is good to run a short distance once a week all year round to keep your body used to running when the winter comes along.

Cross Country Skiing/Skating:  This is another area that is can directly relate to cycling.  Many of the same muscles are used and the endurance energy system is highly challenged during  cross country skiing/skating.  The highest VO2 max tests have occurred with cross country  skiing athletes, so I encourage anyone looking for a way to really challenge their endurance engine to consider this off season activity.   The only downside is accessibility.  This is the most expensive sport on the list due to equipment considerations and cost to access trails.  It is also more time consuming to have to drive to a resort or trail system.  However, if those aren’t barriers, it can be one of the more challenging and interesting pursuits in the winter.  It doesn’t get much better than swooshing through the woods on a blue bird winter day.

Other Sports:  Swimming, basketball, soccer, etc. can all be way to stay fit or even gain fitness and have fun as well.  I love playing other sports to keep it new and interesting.  You can also learn a lot about how your body works, all while working a whole new set of muscles and energy systems.  Obviously some sports are a bit risky.  Hockey, soccer and rugby are all goods ways to tear an ACL, as well as get fit.  Swimming, rowing, and yoga are easier on the joints in your body.

I get this question a lot.  Should cyclists cross train and if so, how?  My answer varies based on the goals of each individual.  Some amount of off the bike training is critical to fending off injury and improving your on bike performance.  (core training, stretching) I don’t consider this “cross” training, just regular training.  Cross training as defined here is the use of other sports or exercise movements in the effort to improve overall fitness or cycling.

The first questions is how important is cycling as part of your overall goals.  If you are solely dedicated to road racing, for instance, a minimal amount of cross training is going to be needed.  That would differ from the individual that wants to race cyclocross and also be able to play soccer with their kids on the weekends without being sore for a week.

The second question is a factor of where you live.  If you are not in a warmer climate, cross training in the winter months can be a great way to fend off  boredom and enjoy some other benefits of using other muscles.

The third question is one of mental state.  Do you need a break from cycling in your training to stay motivated?

As a follow up, I’ll discuss cross training options and benefits.

As an update to my previous posts on the road status in Boulder County after the flood, I went out and checked many of the local roads.  Amazingly, they are being pieced back together slowly.  The classic Carter Lake route is now open with the chicane being repaired.  I have to give some credit to the state for gettting these roads fixed so quickly.  Compare my pics of this area from the previous post and now:

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I love the fall and as a bike commuter in Colorado that means the occasional snow.  The cool thing about this time of year is that the snow doesn’t turn to ice and you can still commute reasonably by bike.  It isn’t too much different than rain and actually can be more comfortable since the snow doesn’t penetrate your clothing in the same way.

Keys to successful snow commuting:

  1. Wide shoulders, bike lanes, trails.  I don’t recommend doing too much commuting on roads without shoulders (although I have on snow and ice and that is why I don’t recommend it).  It is hard to see the road/bike lane line, as well as where the pavement ends sometimes.  So wider is better.
  2. Cyclocross bikes work best.  The narrow tires cut through the snow and tend not too accummulate too much.  Mountain bikes can work just fine, however they are much slower and seem to gather a lot more snow.  I’ve actually had pretty good luck on road bikes as well.  As long as there is pavement and the snow is only an inch or so.
  3. Indoor storage.  Although this isn’t necessary, it is much nicer to have the bike dry and warm when you go to head out in the evening.  If you don’t, find cover.  If you can’t find cover, bring plastic wrap for the seat so at least your major contact point is dry.
  4. Major lighting.  Of course visibility is key on the roads and nothing is better than a ton of bright lights.  Err on the side of expensive because water proof and reliable are key when your 10 miles from home on a country road in the dark.
  5. Clothing.  Obviously water proof is important.  I also am a huge fan of layering.  So much so that I almost never end up wearing more than a light rain jacket, even in the winter.  I go with:
    1. Wind proof tights or leg warmers (temp depending).
    2. Shoe covers, I might add a second wind proof layer or those chemical packets if it is really cold
    3. Lightweight wool socks
    4. Poly base layer
    5. Fleece bibs
    6. Wind proofchest only  base layer
    7. Fleece arm warmers
    8. Rain jacket
    9. Ski gloves if it’s really cold or Gor-Tex Wind proof gloves if not
    10. Fleece cycling cap or stocking cap
    11. Sunglasses that have the lenses that change with light conditions.  Bigger the better.
    12. Neck Gator

Have fun playing in the snow!

Single Digit Ride

I absolutely love this ride.  It can be as challenging as you would like it to be.  Start out in front and battle national champs.  Start out in back and work on whatever specific training element you would like.  Pick an enemy and try to pass them.  It is a full on race pace, but in a setting that allows an individual rider to become better.  This ride alone can grow your skills in cross quicker than nearly any other training.  There are even times when the ride stops and works on a specific skill (starts are usually a popular one.)

I try to make this a weekly ritual.  I can become addictive.    It is also the best way to start your day. The kind of suffering that cross can give you is a great way to completely cleanse your body and mind for the day ahead. If could change anything, I would make every day Wednesday. (At least from 7-9 AM)

If there is a hard rain or other reason we can’t have the ride, it totally can bumm out your day. It also makes you realize how great it is to have such an amazing cycling community and spaces to host this kind of impact.

There is a great video of one of the mornings a few years ago:  (if you look closely, I am in the white/grey/orange BRC kit on the red bike)

http://www.mudandcowbells.com/blog/2010/11/5/wednesday-morning-boulder.html

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Every place I with a cycling community worth it’s salt has a Wednesday Worlds.  These training races/rides have always been great for getting in shape and the Boulder Wednesday Worlds may actually be the closest to a real Worlds.  (at least in the US)  This event has two time slots, 7 AM for the working stiffs and 8AM for the more flexible working stiffs.  And like any ride in Boulder,  of course there are always a  smattering of pro woman and men to keep the event exciting.

When I first started out doing WW it was a small group of folks and I learned about it from a friend who raced mountain bikes pro.  We would meet at a coffee shop and cruise through parks and much of Boulder in search of places to hone our cross skills.  It then evolved into a seriously huge group of people and the ride became an issue for other openspace/park users.  The ride actually sought “sanctioning” from the Boulder parks department and the early season rides would start with a talk about respecting other users.  The ride also became less easy to find.  There became a few riders who would organize the rides and spread the word to folks in an effort to keep the number of riders low enough to not have to have a sanctioned race.

After the advent of Valmont Bike Park, the ride became even more formal with the local cycling community negotiating how often the ride could use the park and the rules around the use.   Now the ride meets at a coffee shop and moves onto whatever park that is selected for that day, sometimes it is more than one location.  Often the rides try to recreate the upcoming weekends race conditions so that riders can start to hone their skills around the next race.

Team Rides

There are plenty of reasons to be on a bike team. (As I go over here and here and here.)  One of the best reasons is to make great friends.  I’ve been lucky to make long term friends and some of my best friends through racing, coaching and just good old fashioned riding.  This weekend was a great reminder as I was able to get out and ride with teammates on a happenstance and also on a planned group ride.  It was great motivation to get out, as well as just plain fun on the bike.   Although I missed the impromptu accapella Bohemian Rhapsody session that happened before I met up with the guys, I was there for the multiple flats and ribbing that goes with it and the always exciting town line sprints.

team

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