If youíre like me, itís hard to get motivated to go out in the cold, wind and snow to exercise during the winter. As the days start to get longer here in Alaska, I do get in some skiing and snowshoeing, but itís never enough. Now itís time to get serious about getting ready for the cycling season.
No matter what sport youíre involved in, itís a good idea to cross-train with other sports or exercises. Thatís especially true for cycling because itís not a weight bearing exercise. Particularly for us women, that means it doesnít do as much to reduce our risk of osteoporosis as other types of exercise in which we have to carry our own weight or are lifting additional weight while doing the activity.
There are approximately 640 skeletal muscles in the human body. Many sports, like cycling, tend to work the same muscles over and over, but donít exercise anything close to the full range of muscles we have. As a result, as a cyclist you might have great quads but a weaker upper body. To fully work as many muscles as possible, we need to engage in a variety of activities. Weight lifting, even with light weights, is an obvious way to do this, and for many people spending time in the gym during the winter is just the ticket for fighting off winter blues and excess weight. Many of us, however, donít enjoy the gym. Skiing, cross country and downhill, is excellent for full body exercise. If thatís not your cup of tea, try snowshoeing with poles or even walking with a good arm swing. If youíre lucky enough to live where you can cycle year round, make an effort to get out and do other activities as well.
Even if youíve been maintaining your health by doing a variety of activities all winter, you may want to spend some time in the spring specifically getting ready for cycling. Think about the muscles you use while cycling, and spend some time conditioning them. Our leg muscles are obvious, both the quadriceps and hamstrings. We also use our lower back and abdominal muscles to maintain our bent-forward upper body position, as well as our upper back and triceps while holding onto the handle bars. All of these deserve some special attention in the spring. A little research will lead you to a plethora of information on weight training, yoga, Pilates and other exercises to help strengthen the muscles youíll be using.
If you have a wind trainer for your bike or a stationary bicycle, start using it. Once you can get outside to ride, make sure you take it easy at first. I know my knees always take a couple of weeks to get used to pedaling, so it does me no good to start out riding too many miles at the beginning. Your hands, wrists, shoulders and butt may also take a little time to toughen up. Trying to do too much too soon will only lead to injury and keep you off your bike even longer. Spending some time on the stationary bike will help with these issues, but nothing ever seems to make up for actual time on the bike riding on varied terrain.
Stay active year round, start early with cycling spring training, take care of yourself, and enjoy a fabulous cycling season!