By Professional Cyclist and Olympian, Denise Ramsden
Winter can seem like a hard time to be a cyclist–unless you live in the perpetual sunshine of California or Arizona. If you are thinking about starting cycling, the thought of hopping on a bike in rain, snow or near-freezing temperatures can put you off the idea right away! If you enjoyed a great summer of riding, the idea of having to throw on five more layers and balaclava just to ride can also make you cringe.
Whether you fall into either group, no one needs to panic. If you are looking at getting into cycling, there are plenty of activities you can do through the winter to be prepared for getting on a bike once the good weather comes. For those who are already avid cyclists, spending time cross-training throughout the winter might actually help you become a better cyclist. The benefits of taking a break from your bike in the winter are both physical and mental.
Physically: You need to rest to get stronger. A break from cycling gives your body a chance to recuperate and become stronger. It also gives you a chance to work on weaknesses that can only be fixed off the bike, like core strength.
Mentally: If you spend time doing activities that you find fun, you’ll be faster! Making yourself miserable by slogging through a rainy, freezing ride isn’t always going to pay off.
So, if you’re looking to get on or back on a bike once the weather gets nice again, what can you do?
Here are five activities that I think are great for off-season training.
1. Core Work Inside
Cycling gives you a strong heart and strong legs and lungs, but it doesn’t do a good job of making you strong overall. I’ve been to the Olympics, but I can’t do a push-up. That seems like it should be an oxymoron, but that is what just cycling can do to you! I always spend a fair bit of time in the off-season trying to get stronger in the gym – both upper and lower body – and working on my push-up! Maintaining a strong balanced body is key to staying injury-free through the cycling season.
2. Cross-country skiing
If you live somewhere with snow, try out cross-country skiing. It is a great cardiovascular activity. If you ski regularly through the winter, you’ll be flying fit come cycling season. It also works on the upper body muscles that might get neglected on your bike. Skate skiing uses quite a few muscles you don’t use on your bike, so it will definitely help you become a stronger all-around athlete
Get out and enjoy the outdoors! Hiking will help maintain your fitness through the winter, but it also ranks high as a mental recovery activity. It’s a way to get your heart rate up, while exploring areas of the outdoors you never could on your bike.
4. Spin classes
Indoor riding can be a great way to maintain on-bike fitness through the winter and have fun with a group of friends. You stay warm and dry inside, but get in an intense workout on the bike.
Riding a bike can make you pretty tight–particularly in your hamstrings and hip flexors. Yoga can be a great way to maintain your flexibility as you get in to cycling, or get your flexibility back after a summer of riding. Cycling also doesn’t promote good upper body posture so yoga can help you keep your shoulders and back un-slouched.
If you get lucky with a beautiful winter day, it’s always great to get out on your bike. For the days where you don’t feel like it, or if you don’t have a bike yet, these activities will help get you ready for a fun summer of cycling.
Denise is a professional road cyclist and represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics. She loves exploring on her bike and is passionate about anything that spreads the joy of riding a bike. As social lead at velofix, she has the opportunity to share her experiences and inspire others to get out and ride.