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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.