Why should I do off the bike training?
The main reasons are, although cycling ticks a lot of health and well-being boxes, it does involve relatively restricted movement patterns, is non-weight bearing and does very little for your upper body.
Off the bike conditioning work addresses these short fallings and, more than anything else, makes you more robust and resilient. This means you will be less likely to injure yourself lifting the kids out of the car, carrying shopping or working in the garden. Less time laid up with an injury means more time out on your bike..
It can slow and even reverse the loss of muscle mass associated with ageing, improving strength, health and facilitating weight control. It will improve bone health, specifically bone density, which is an issue even for many cyclists.
It can also make you faster on the bike. Both directly from improved strength and power but also by improved mobility and being able to hold a more aerodynamic/efficient position. Less time spent sat-up stretching your back off means more time putting the power through your pedals.
Why in the winter?
The main reason for this is that, without any events looming, substituting a couple of off the bike sessions in for cycling ones isn’t a big deal. Especially if you’re lifting weights, it’s not unusual to see a short-term drop in cycling performance due to heavy/fatigued legs but this is easily off-set by the medium and longterm gains. This drop in form isn’t an issue though during the winter as the only beating it might lead to is to your ego on a club run!
Also, as the nights draw in and the weather deteriorates, dedicating some time to off the bike training indoors is less of a push.
If you’re following the Hotchillee Winter Warmer Training Plan, with the three main sessions scheduled, there’s plenty of time for a couple of dedicated off the bike sessions.
What should I do?
For the vast majority of cyclists – especially those in the MAMIL demographic, mobility and control through an improved range of movement are probably the priorities and, for this, yoga, pilates and foam roller work are probably the most beneficial.
If you do head to the gym, a classic mistake cyclists make is adopting a high rep/low weight approach as they think it’ll develop endurance and won’t cause them to gain muscle bulk. Unfortunately, this is untrue on both counts. Endurance for cycling is best developed by cycling whereas the gym is where you go to get stronger and produce more force. The best way to develop force is to lift a relatively heavy weight for a smaller number of reps.
From an endurance perspective, sets of 20 or even 50 reps aren’t going to come anywhere near the muscular endurance demands of cycling where you’re doing 90+ pedal rotations each minute. Low weights, which allow you to perform sets of 20+ reps, will also have almost have no strengthening benefits.
Lifting relatively heavy weights (sets of 8-10 reps), especially in combination with cycling training, won’t cause you to put on large amounts of bulk but it will stimulate strength gains. Don’t be afraid of lifting heavy but, if you’re unsure of technique, do get some qualified instruction.
This last point is key and it also comes with the caveat that the majority of cyclists lack the mobility and control to perform many lifts correctly. The best way to check where you are with regards to strength, mobility and control is to perform a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) and then to use specific exercise to correct any issues. I’d strongly recommend Strength and Conditioning for Cyclists – Off the Bike Conditioning for Performance and Life by Phil Burt – former lead physiotherapist with GBCT and Team Sky and Martin Evans – former lead S&C coach with GBCT. This book has a DIY FMS and great corrective routines and exercises.
Usually a Hotchillee Premium Member benefit, weekly Yoga and Pilates 45-minute classes for cyclists will be free & available to all in November. Sign up through the Rides & Activities tab on our website.
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