Cyclists are notoriously tough to get off their bikes. Whether you are able to ride outdoors all year or get forced onto smart trainers, it’s worth considering other activities to increase your fitness and work on your limitations.
Most other sports (e.g., cross-country skiing and team sports) spend significant time on strength training, this could include agility, balance, core-training and traditional lifting. Yet, cyclists are often hesitant to strength train because they worry about gaining weight and getting too sore. With the right plan, however, these concerns can be avoided. In fact, strength training can improve your cycling performance, and we’re seeing top athletes like mountain bike world champions Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney turn to strength training regularly.
Heat adaptation involves spending time in hot environments including saunas, hot-tubs and hot yoga and is a growing trend. A recent study found more frequent and longer sauna bathing was associated with better health in the general public. If you have access to a hot environment, take advantage of this extra ‘training,’ especially if you enjoy it. The chance to sit still and reap a mental, if not also a health and fitness benefit is enticing — not to mention, it’s an excuse to stay extra warm when it’s extra cold out.
TRAIN YOUR RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
This may sound kooky, but there is significant evidence that respiratory training — training your respiratory muscles and breathing patterns — could improve your performance. The research suggests this training could cause adaptations to your respiratory muscles (just like your legs adapt to your pedaling) and that your perceptions of breathlessness and effort may decrease. Given the research, and the focus disciplines like yoga and strength training put on breathing, plus the obvious tie our breath has to panic and stress, this concept has a lot going for it.
Before spending too much money on respiratory training devices, like Power Lung or Spirotiger, try yoga class, swimming with bi-lateral breathing and practicing nose breathing while lying down, crawling, standing and eventually while pedaling your bike (easily). Strength training with a focus on proper breathing can also be effective.
If you are someone who has very shallow or loud breathing, asthma or you have found you are hitting a performance plateau, it is worth consulting a coach or other professional to see if respiratory training is something that might be worth further investment.
Cyclists aren’t the only athletes who have a tendency to overlook walking, but since we are humans, it is worth considering increasing your daily work capacity on top of your cycling training. This can be done before or after your rides (indoor or outdoor) and has the effect of increasing work capacity and extending your aerobic exercise duration. If you do the same cycling training as you did last year, but increase your walking this year for errands, commuting and family time, you will find more fitness on the bike.
SWITCH UP SPIN CLASS
Trying different exercise classes can be a good way to mix things up and learn new things. Often you will find a really great instructor, new workout ideas and boost your motivation for training. If you hunt around your local area you will likely be able to find some new variations on spin class, such as cycling-specific classes that use smart-trainers to take you through a wattage-based workout. There are several related classes such as those using fan bikes, which combine an exercise bike with handles you can push and pull, and full-body cardio classes like VersaClimber or Jacob’s Ladder classes. These full-body classes make simply pedaling a bike seem easy.