It’s difficult for many of us who aren’t snow birds to stay in cycling shape while the snow and ice gather around us. If you aren’t able to pack up the car, load the bike on the back and head south for the winter, how are you to keep your body in shape? True, this is a challenge for many and hopefully this article will inspire some to stay more ‘ready’ for spring. Cycling muscles are typically called upon 80-100 reps per minute to push down on the pedal so it makes sense that to keep in shape during our off season, we must keep our legs moving and exerting our muscles on occasion.
If you have a gym membership the task is somewhat easier since most gyms offer spin classes (or at least have stationary bikes parked in front of the line of TV’s, quietly waiting for a rider). Let’s assume for now that a costly gym membership is not available and there is no bike trainer at home with your bike perched on top. To keep those leg muscles from losing all memory of pushing and pulling on the pedals there are things we can do at home. Squats keep quads strong and active, stair repeats (up and down the stairs as fast as possible for 5 minutes is a good start) work the quads as well and keep the knees working. If you are inclined to become faster next year, add standing long jumps to your workouts (plyometric exercise).
Plyometrics are exercises that require quick explosions of the muscle such as jumping off the floor straight up or out or on and off boxes. This action is reminiscent of the action on a bike – think of the push off after a stop, or the quick legs required to out run a dog. There are many exercises online if you look up cycling plyometric workouts.
A simple skipping rope (watch the overhead lights) is great to keep the cardio up and also the leg muscles. How is it that skipping was so easy as a kid?
Let’s not forget our core muscles. While it seems that the legs do all the work, our core is also engaged, supporting the body while we tour the countryside. A good core exercise is the plank, straight body almost parallel to the floor, supported on forearms or hands as well as doing good ‘ol sit ups or crunches. You can enlist the help of a large ball for much of the core workout – crunches while your back in supported on the ball is good. Any exercises (even arm workouts) while sitting on the ball are good to keep our balance in tune.
Finally, stretching – something most don’t do enough of. Use the ball to drape your back over – facing up keeps the spine stretched. Any type of leg stretches will help keep the body happy while it waits to climb back in the saddle! If you have a yoga or Pilate’s class available to you, participate! It’s the best thing for your muscles and will keep you strong and injury free.
(Contributed by By Leslie Meloche)