You either love it or you hate it: cross training. Some relish the idea of changing up their workout and trying new things. Others find the idea of deviating from their regular cycling schedule either daunting or a nuisance. The fact is cross training is necessary to not only make you a better cyclist but also helps to prevent overuse injuries.
As a trainer and coach I have learned over the last decade that your cross training should differ depending on whether you are in or out of a training cycle. So if you are 8 weeks out from a big race your cross training will vary greatly in frequency and type than if you are in a maintenance phase months out from any race where you will be pushing your pace or endurance. Here are some general guidelines for cyclists to follow when look for cross training options and figuring out how to fit them into their exercise plan.
When you are OUTSIDE of a training phase:
- This is your time to experiment with new cross training. Maybe you have always wanted to dance or try rock climbing. Maybe your husband has been trying to drag you out ocean kayaking. During a maintenance phase in your cycling year you will ideally have more time to fit in more adventurous activities. So try something new and wild!
Cross training will take up 30-50% of your training during this time. So if you regularly devote 5 days a week to training, 2 of those will be doing something OTHER than cycling. If you are a 6 days a week trainee, you may spend as many as 3 days of that cross training, and no, “different” styles of cycling do not count (indoor cycling class, mountain biking, etc.).
- Your goal for cross training during this period is total body conditioning. You want to ensure that the entire body is working efficiently as a unit. So when picking a cross training session look for something that combines a focus on strength and conditioning with a cardio element throughout – think kickboxing as opposed to just lifting weights, or try a barre class as opposed to a Pilates class.
When you are IN a training phase:
- This is when you stick to cross training you know. Trying something that is too radically new may lead to injury or over-stress of the major muscles you need to complete your cycling training. You don’t have to do something boring and mundane, but if you’ve never gone downhill skiing before, making it your main cross training while leading up to a big cycling race or event is probably not the best idea.
- Cross training at this point will only take up about 20-30% of your training time. So if you are a 5 days a week trainee – 1 day would be cross training; 6 days a week trainee – 2 days. This is because you are spending more time getting miles in on your bike. You will still consider indoor cycling workouts and riding different types of bicycles as part of your regular training; so your cross training will be something outside of the box.
- Your goal for cross training for this period is to strengthen muscles that are regularly neglected during long rides or may need to be strengthened to make your rides more efficient. We are looking to work areas like the back, hamstrings, central abdominal muscles and chest. Great choices for this period of training are boxing, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, Pilates, and Vinyasa-style yoga.
No matter what you choose, remember that cross training will make you a better cyclist. So embrace the challenges that different exercises will bring to your body.
Lei is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!