Cross-Training For Cyclists

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Cross training suggestsionAs the days get shorter and – oddly enough – nights get longer this time of year, we cyclists have a big dilemma: how do we stay sharp through the winter, without burning out?

The answer? Simple: Cross-training. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cross-training, allow me to explain. Cross-training is defined as, “Performing an activity you really hate, in the hope that it will make you better at an activity you really like, even though you’re pretty sure you’d become better at the activity you like by simply doing that activity.”

What cross-training activities should you do, then? Well, that depends entirely upon what kind of biking skills you want to improve.
Here are some suggestions.

Track Cyclists
Want to be a faster, more competitive racer at the local velodrome next season? Then you need to cross-train with an eye toward the unique characteristics of your sport.

  • Take up running, track style. Running can help you maintain your aerobic base, but if you’re a track cyclist, you should absolutely not just strap on some shoes and hit the open road. No, if you do that you’ll soon realize that it’s a big, beautiful world out there with a lot to see and a lot of places to go. If you get a taste for going places, the track will lose its appeal forever. Instead, get a nice treadmill, and run on that. This has the two-fold appeal of making sure you get plenty of exercise without seeing anything, and punishing you severely (i.e., making you crash and look like a fool) if you coast for even a millisecond.
  • Head out to the amusement park. Spend lots of time at the local carnival or amusement park. Focus on rides like the carousel, ferris wheel, and tilt-a-whirl/waltzer. If you ever want to be a competitive trackie, you need to build up an extreme tolerance for going round and round and round in a circle.

Cyclocross is a mixed discipline, combining elements of multiple sports. To maximize your suitability for this event, try the following as your cross training events:

  • Learn to Riverdance. The hopping, skipping, high-kicking intensity of this style of dance is perfectly matched to the skills necessary to dismount your bike hit the ground running, jump over a barrier, and then remount.
  • Change careers. To really get into the mindset of cyclocross, you need to be able to switch from riding to running to portaging to jumping and back to riding, over and over with no notice whatsoever. And you need to be able to do it often. To improve your ability to switch tasks like this, find a new job, working for an indecisive, neurotic micromanager. You’ll find that the urgency of his orders combined with the incessant changing of those orders, feels exactly the same as cyclocross, except it goes on all day, five days per week. You’ll have no problem finding a job working for a manager of this sort, since they always seem to have openings in their teams.

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