Home > Spotlight

Get off your bike to get better on your bike

A variety of activities will make you fitter, faster and healthier

The group of cyclists man in road bicycle racing go to the mountain.

The group of cyclists man in road bicycle racing go to the mountain.
You’re probably like most cyclists: you ride a couple of times during the week, and then get a long ride or two in on the weekend. During the summer, your rides make up a majority of your movement. That is why the fall and winter are the perfect time to mix some different activities into your training. While you want to ride more to get faster, you can only do as much as your work and family schedules allow. Rather than trying to fit in more intense workouts or more long rides into your week, I suggest movement variety as an effective and enjoyable way to increase your overall work capacity, health and cycling performance. Different non-cycling exercises can address on-bike issues. Here are three examples.

RELATED: 6 great stretches for cyclists

You have pain or discomfort on the bike

Man in sports clothes performing leg stretch in hallway, ground view
Many cyclists have strong aerobic engines but are limited by their soft tissue. Cramps, back pain, IT bands and saddle sores are just some soft-tissue issues. If you pursue multiple types of movement, you will find that your body is able to recover from one sport while you do the other. Non-cycling sports strengthen your underused muscles, while giving overused cycling muscles rest. Different loads on the body and ranges of motion can be both preventive and therapeutic measures. Try walking at lunch and with the family in the evening to use an increased range of motion and to strengthen your hips and ankles while developing valuable low-level aerobic function that many of us are missing. Basic strength or core routines also serve to change loads and ranges of motion.

RELATED: Use micro-goals to make big improvements

You get dropped, struggle or hate hills and accelerations, but can ride all day

Beautiful Fit Woman Doing Barbell Squats In The Gym
I see this often, especially in athletes who have competed in long-distance events, such as triathlon and endurance mountain biking. I generally get clients to work on three aspects. We increase the amount of climbing on the bike they do each week by adding hill intervals and changing to hillier routes. We also gradually add in off-bike sprinting and strength work that pushes their athletic and work capacity. Finally, we spend time climbing out of the saddle during intervals and rides. It is surprising how the skill of standing and pedalling can change someone’s perception of hills by providing a second strategy for turning the cranks. Focused track sessions, hill sprints, stairs or fun team sports, such as ultimate frisbee, will increase your athleticism and train your body and brain to work hard.

RELATED: Train hard, recover harder: 6 tips to improve your recovery

You just don’t have enough time to ride more

healthy lifestyle asian woman running at stairs seaside
While the kids are at practice, do a hill-sprint workout and a quick strength circuit. You can stay nearby and see the game, but get a targeted workout in on a day you would perhaps do little movement. Perhaps you could help at the kids practice and benefit from that activity. If they are at the pool, you might be able to swim or use the gym during that time. Walking at lunch adds a low-level cardio that many of us are missing. Running uphill is a tremendous workout, if you are lucky enough to have longer climbs around you. Uphill running – especially in a park or up a ski hill – generally doesn’t cause as much soreness as traditional running. It can also help cyclists push harder than they might on the bike. Find movements you can do when you are travelling, hemmed in because of weather or restricted because of injury. While it is tempting to pedal away the days while the nice summer weather is here, it is worth finding other ways to move to enhance your health, performance and resilience. Variety and work capacity are two facets you can gradually add to your week to see increases in health, performance and fun.

RELATED: Just eat that croissant