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Training Tips

Best Tips For Cross Training

By: USA Cycling Coach  June 25, 2020

When you Google the term “cross training,” 37 million pages appear on the topic! It has been written about since Tudor Bumpa was in diapers!

So why should cyclists cross train? It’s simple: to develop muscles that get neglected while on the bike; to add variety to your training program; to complement the bike fitness by fine tuning a personal strength or addressing a weakness; and, of course, to have fun.

Don’t think there is any science or specificity to it? Think a little harder about what it takes to get the hole shot for that last turn in a criterium, positioning for the first section of cobbles in the Tour of Flanders, to keep it safe on a Gran Fondo, or for the climber positioning themselves at the base of a climb at the lead of the bunch to make the top of the podium.

Here are five applicable, relevant and actionable cross-training tips for any cyclist:

5 Tips for Cross Training

  1. TRICK YOUR MIND AND BODY. Cross training can be a great way to maintain your fitness and current activity level without realizing you are working out. Try running, cross-country skiing, in-line skating, rowing, swimming, weightlifting or flag football.
  2. BE REALISTIC. Cross train if you find it motivating and you have the time. If you really just need a break, then take a break.
  3. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Are you feeling a little stale? Then, by all means, hang your bike up for a while or dust it off on the weekends only and give cross training a go.
  4. MOVE WISELY. Remember, your cycling fitness will cross right over (you are an aerobic engine), so just because you can run 5 miles the first time out, doesn’t mean you should. It takes time to sharpen those primary running muscles. Likewise, playing soccer non-stop will wreak havoc on your muscles from all the short bursts of speed. Ease into it.
  5. AND ABOVE ALL, KEEP IN SIMPLE. Select a cross training activity that won’t take a lot of startup. Played tennis in high school? Get out the racquet and back on the court for a few weeks. Have a gym membership? Give a few classes a try – Pilates, kickboxing, yoga.

MASTER TIP: The offseason is a perfect time to get caught up on home matters – spring cleaning, home projects and chores, etc. Then maintain fitness with brief HIT (high intensity training) sessions (e.g. jump rope intervals), and at least one 2-hour or longer endurance ride per week.

Essentially, your cross-training purpose is to add motivation for the upcoming season or prevent mid-season burnout. Cyclists log many hours on the bike, and with a racing season that typically starts in March and doesn’t end until September, it can be a struggle to stay focused and goal-driven for seven months. Adding balance and variety now will pay off in the long run. And isn’t that why we do it? The long run?