At some point as cyclists, we might be forced to take a break due to injury. While it can be incredibly frustrating, don’t let a setback deter you from staying fit. In fact, if you focus your energy in a positive direction, it’s possible to use your time off to reset mentally, improve your weaknesses and get rid of any bad habits that may be hindering your performance.
Use these six tips to stay fit (and maintain your sanity) the next time the doctor orders you to take time off the bike:
While it can be hard to get into a dedicated, consistent weightlifting routine during the cycling season because of the time spent on the bike, when you’re injured it should be a go-to activity. This is because weight training allows you to work on areas that are normally weak spots for cyclists and aren’t strengthened on the bike.
Use your extra training time to strengthen your back, shoulders, neck and other areas of the upper body that don’t aggravate your current injury. If you want to avoid adding unnecessary bulk, lift high repetitions of lighter weight in the 15–20 rep range. Also keep your rest time between sets and exercises to a minimum to raise your heart rate and burn more calories.
FIND A NEW ACTIVITY
Sometimes an injury can be a blessing in disguise. By taking time away from the bike, you’ll be able to reset mentally and allow other areas of your body that could use a little rest to recover, too.
You can further take advantage of your down time by trying out new activities you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t had the time. Cardio boxing classes, rock climbing, yoga or other fitness-related activities are good choices to help you take a break from the grind of daily cycling and keep you in decent shape until you are healed enough to get back out on the road.
WATCH YOUR CALORIES
When you’re riding four or five days a week, you might be able to get away with pizza night or splurging for dessert. Since the number of calories you’re burning per week will likely take a big hit when you’re injured, you’ll need to significantly lower your calorie consumption to keep from packing on the pounds.
During some of the time you would normally spend training, focus on getting serious about your diet. Plan out your meals for the week, track your daily calorie consumption and expenditure, and try to eat even healthier than you do normally — staying away from processed foods and sugar. If you’re able to make positive changes, it’ll likely carry over when you do start training again.
GET IN THE POOL
Because it’s easy on the joints and can be focused either on the upper or lower body, the pool is an excellent choice to maintain your endurance while you’re dealing with injury. If you can handle lap swimming, definitely focus some of your efforts on intervals and long-distance workouts.
For upper-body injuries, you can use a kickboard and flippers to avoid any additional stress. If it’s your lower extremities, complete your workouts with a pull buoy between your legs and use only your arms and shoulders to move across the pool instead.
Core strength and flexibility are usually issues with all cyclists. If your body can tolerate it, starting a yoga program can help you prevent injuries in the future and help to work on your weaknesses as a cyclist.
Boat pose, planks and downward facing dog are a few basic yoga moves that are good to begin with. You can also try taking a few yoga classes to learn proper form and technique, or try a hot yoga class for a harder, sweatier workout.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Like anything else, being injured can cause a lot of additional stress — especially when you suddenly find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands to think about how dire your situation may seem. Instead of getting depressed about what you can and can’t do and how long it’s going to take you to get back on the bike, focus on resting your body and doing everything you can to recover from your injury.
In addition to a consistent rehab routine, maintaining a good sleep schedule is key to successful recovery. Getting eight hours of sleep per night can also help you reduce your stress levels and keep you from gaining weight — which is important if you’re trying to stay fit. Developing good habits carries over when you recover and adequate sleep is absolutely necessary to achieve peak physical performance.