Want to be a good cyclist? Well - then cycling is probably the best primary form of training. However, that's not to say that it isn't worth packing in a few other activities during you week.
[related_articles]Adding some cross training to your training helps give your cycling muscles a break, and also gives you the opportunity to strengthen some of those muscles not targeted by cycling. Not only that, if you've got a chosen cross training sport, it will help you stay fit and motivated should injury strike.
There are hundreds of options out there - we took a look at the best cross training exercises for cyclists...
Running is very often the first option cyclists go for when the weather is bad, or they're time strapped, and want to get a good workout in with as little hassle as possible.
Running, unlike cycling, is a weight bearing activity - this means it strengthens your bones and joints, as well as your muscles, and torches calories at a rate of around 600 an hour (dependent on weight and speed). It's also as easy as putting on trainers and hopping out the door - so perfect if you're away on business, or have busy family commitments.
The negative element on running is that the weight bearing element means that it's easy to pick up an injury - much more so than when cycling. Therefore, if you decide to run, build up your time running and distance very conservatively, and make sure you have a good pair of trainers that aren't worn.
Swimming provides an all-over body workout. It's easy to believe that only really the arms get a good session from a swim, but actually you'll be using your core muscles to support yourself, your hip flexors play a crucial role in kicking, and your calfs propel you forwards in the water.
Swimming is also a great way to boost cardiovascular fitness, and it can improve your lung capacity (great for those 'can't breathe' efforts on the bike).
As it's not weight bearing, many athletes, such as Nicole Cooke, have used swimming as a form of cross training when recovering from an injury, or indeed when pregnant. The downside here is that neither swimming or cycling are weight bearing, which means neither exercise will strengthen your joints and bones.
In addition, swimming effectively requires a fair amount of technique - but if you're planning on splashing about regularly, there are loads of great local swimming clubs who welcome 'masters' (over 25's). You never know, you might even take to it like a fish and try a few competitions!
Cycling and rowing see a lot of cross over - in skills and athletes.
One of the most famous examples is Robecca Romero - who won a silver medal at the Athens Olypmics in 2004, as a rower, and then retired in 2006. That year she won a silver medal in the UCI Track World Cup pursuit, later winning Individual and Team Pursuit Gold in 2008.
Many rowers also cycle alongside their training, using the bike to build endurance, whilst rowing short six minute sprints keeps their top end form up. However, the two sports share a similar physiology - working the cardiovascular system hard, as well as the legs and hips which are the driving forces used to push away. The difference is the added upper body training.
Rowing builds muscular strength, and cardiovascular fitness - perfect. The downsides? Once again, it's not weight bearing, and in addition, unless you have access to a boat, you're going to be rowing in the gym.
We understand that can get a little boring - but 10 minute reps, separated by circuits and core strengthening exercises can provide a great workout, and you can spice it up by setting yourself distance goals on the ergo machine!
Yoga or Pilates
The merits of regular Yoga practice or Pilates are huge for cyclists.
Cycling causes muscles to become tight - particularly the quads, hamstrings, and lower back - this can play havoc with posture and other, smaller muscles, which end up taking the brunt when the tight muscles become less effective. Both Yoga and Pilates are great for stretching these muscles out - though Yoga places more emphasis on the stretching element.
Both practices also strengthen the body, through holding poses which force the muscles to work, with Pilates taking the edge in this respect. Not only that, but they both provide thinking time and in the case of Yoga, meditation.
Though people who practice Yoga or Pilates on a daily basis are kept very fit, they don't exercise the cardiovascular system in the same way as cycling. Therefore, we'd suggest adding one to two classes a week to your schedule, but keeping up with some cardio fitness.
Tempted? Check out these Yoga and Cycling Holidays Around the World..
High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) could be used to describe super short bursts on the bike, but in this case, we're referring to gym-style circuits.
These sessions will include short bursts of a range of exercises - burpees, jump lunges, squats and more.
This kind of training forces your body to work super hard in pretty much every direction. Dynamic plyometrics, such as burpees, force explosive movements which in turn can be hugely helpful in building core strength, and developing your sprint.
The downsides here? Well - be prepared to work very hard for a short space of time. These movements also put a lot of strain on your body, so watch out for any niggles - you don't want to sideline yourself from cycling by jumping too hard! In addition, though you can create a circuit at home, you might also need to get to a gym for a class.
Kettlebell training has got more and more popular in recent years. I remember my housemates being confused by the strange, bomb like device in my room at uni - but now they're in nearly every gym!
Shaped like a cannonball, with a thick handle, the kettlebell is an awesome piece of kit to have at home, if you're after a quick workout.
You perform explosive exercises, and lots of repetitions - creating a fast paced strength routine that works your heart and lungs just as hard.
A short, 20-30 minute session will complement your cycling by helping you to develop a super strong core, which will make you more injury proof and provide extra power on the bike.
The negative is that proper technique is pretty important - so check into a class first.
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