Winter rainstorms keeping you off your bike? You can still keep a measure of fitness, even if you and your road bike aren't on speaking terms at the moment. Don’t sing the Blues when the rain begins -- these days are a opportunity to experience different activities through crosstraining.
What is crosstraining?
Adding a different type of activity to the sport you do (bike riding, for example), helps to build fitness by working muscles that normally don’t get used by grinding the pedals.
Doing one activity all the time can put you at risk for repetitive stress of the body parts that get overused, (i.e., in the case of cycling, wrist strain, lower back pain, and so on).
According to WebMD, more and more weekend warriors are discovering the benefits of crosstraining because it helps them stay functionally active, with the idea of mixing it up between aerobic workouts, strength training, endurance, and balance workouts helps keep your body fit and no one muscle group is over-used. A body made fit by variety in its workouts doesn’t injure itself by repetitive movement.
Face it. If all you do is ride your bike long distances, you will have amazing legs and cardio, but you also might have tight hamstrings and problems with your back associated with that and tight shoulders from being in an aero position over your handlebars.
These issues are potentially preventable if you get off the bike once in awhile and do other activities that help stretch muscles and tendons, such as yoga and pilates. If you plan on doing long distant bike riding, weight training in moderation aids your endurance and a stretching activity such as yoga also can help with mindful breathing, another important aspect of bike riding. Balance activities help with that all-important core, crucial for staying in the saddle when riding gnarly singletrack on your fav trail or shooting down hairpin turns in the mountains.
We like crosstraining because it's easier to motivate to work out indoors than it is to take a long bike ride in a downpour.
Crosstraining also aids in total fitness, suggests the WebMD article, which, in the long run, will help you enjoy bike riding more.
Here are eight activities to add to your crosstraining mix, and for most of them, you don’t need good weather!
1. Climb the walls
Wall climbing tests your endurance and balance. Most climbing gyms have shorter bouldering walls, which is where novice climbers learn the activity. Bouldering is less equipment intensive, that is, you don’t need ropes or harnesses to get started. Generally, bouldering helps to build your climbing skills focusing on strength and balance and once you’ve mastered that, the next step is to strap on the harness and use the ropes on the tall walls.
Can’t find a place you like to learn? Here is an instructable on how to create your own climbing wall in your garage.
2. Channel your inner yogini
While you won’t hit your anaerobic threshold or max heartrate with this activity, yoga is useful for keeping muscles limber and helping with focus and breathing. The latter two are a great help in bike racing. There are several approaches to and styles of yoga, from gentle Hatha to sweat-inducing Bikram, so it might take a little experimentation to find the right practice or studio.
3. Work your core
Another challenging activity only slightly similar to yoga is pilates, a system of working out that helps stabilize and strengthen your core. This activity consists of a series of workouts that have been adapted from Joseph Pilates' principles of physical conditioning. Pilates is all about technique and movement control. Through pilates you develop a strong core, better posture, and awareness of the mind/body connection, all of which can help bike riders of all levels of experience.
4. Hit the gym
Grab an accountability buddy (just a fancy term for a workout friend), and hit the gym for good, old-fashioned weight training. A good weight training regimen helps with endurance, improved cardio health, and is a good way to train your muscles so they support your joints better -- important for bikers who experience knee pain, for example. Also, a good gym will have experts who can suggest appropriate exercises for cyclists.
5. Channel your inner Kristi Yamaguchi
Yes, ice skating offers the benefit of working on your balance and stability (important for bike riding), as well as helps to build leg muscles. It’s less hard on the joints than running, but does use some of the same motion that running does, and is a terrific cardio workout. It helps to build endurance, as well.
Most urban areas have ice rinks and rental skates and offer ice time for all ages -- an opportunity to get the family and enjoy a different activity together.
6. Get that Spin on
Well, it's a little like riding a bike, right? As with a good bike ride, a good spinning workout increases your cardio endurance, and helps tone the muscles in the legs, buttocks and thighs. It’s also, like many of the activities on this list, a low impact exercise. And, the beauty of spinning is that there are spinning-specific studios all over most urban areas, it is easy to find a class near you. Many fitness facilities also offer spinning classes, as well.
Or, you keep to home with a roller or trainer. You have the bike, so it’s simple enough to set up in a garage if you have one, or in front of the TV (if there’s room), and you can get your miles in while laughing at the rain outside!
7. Pull that Oar
In many urban areas around the country, rowing studios are cropping up. Rowing provides a workout from stem to stern. The motion of pulling on the oars strengthens your upper back (good for the shoulders when you go into an aero tuck over your handlebars), and helps to build strength and your endurance. As with spinning, a rowing workout will burn calories, helping you keep that lean and mean physique that helps when riding a bike.
8. Get out in nature
If indoor workouts just don’t excite you (You’re a bicyclist, after all, not a gym rat!), then the great outdoors calls in the form of cross country skiing. In California, head for the hills, where there are tons of areas for cross country skiing.
Cross-country skiing is a bit like ice skating on skis. To move efficiently across the snow, you are using your arms and legs to glide. The action of cross country skiing helps you improve your cardiovascular endurance, also important for bike riding. Because the upper body is involved, cross country skiing does give you a full-body workout, something bicycling lacks.
This year, particularly in California, the ski resorts are open with tons of snow, and many of them have groomed cross-country trails in addition to downhill skiing.
There you have it. Eight ways to beat the rainy day blues with crosstraining.