There is one thing I don’t like about mountain biking – I can’t ride as much as I want to. For various reasons, the two main ones being safety and time constraints. For those very same reasons, I’m very much a weekend warrior, but that can’t keep me from staying fit and in top form. During my honeymoon in Italy, I ate a few too many pastas and gelatos and let me tell you – an extra five kilograms are heavy to lug around on a bike and sloooooows you doooooooown. There are people paying good money to have a bike that’s less than one kg lighter than the one they have. So therefore, cross training is a necessary thing, albeit much less exciting.
After the honeymoon-weight-gain debacle, I decided I need to try multiple forms of exercise to elicit the best results. This started with me on my way to a Grid class at gym, only to be intercepted by my very dainty, beautiful, leggy, blonde neighbour who is on her way to a “Shape” class. She convinced me to join the class, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “this class is for girly girls”. Ugh! Well let me tell you, karma can be a nasty little thing, but only if you are. My biceps were aching and itching until four days later. I was stiff in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. That’s when I realised, I need to work on my overall strength. After all, strong is the new pretty.
So here are some cross training options that are especially good for mountain bikers:
That’s cheating, I know. It’s still cycling, but sometimes it’s just easier and more accessible than mountain biking. It’s also great for the lungs and requires a different kind of fitness than mountain biking, yet greatly aids in the performance of its off-road counterpart.
Because running is a weight bearing sport it increases bone strength and density, which is especially great for women, as we are more prone to diseases like osteoporosis than men. Running torches calories and is quite convenient – you put on your shoes and out the door you go. It’s easier to squeeze in a running session before or after work, than a ride in the mountain. Downside is that because running is a weight bearing activity, it increases chances for injury. So, if you decide to start out, do so slowly, even if you’re a seasoned cyclist. You don’t want an injury you get from running to interfere with the joys of cycling.
Swimming is a great sport to loosen up your hip flexors which can get quite tight from cycling (and sitting at a desk). It’s great cardiovascular exercise and improves lung capacity, which is just what you need when your lungs start burning on that last part of a steep climb. Swimming also strengthens your core and makes you stretch without even realising it.
Yoga & Pilates
Why yoga and Pilates? Indeed, why? There are many people out there who love yoga and Pilates, I am just not one of them. For me it is just not exciting enough. However, I wish I could bring myself to do these exercises as the benefits are manifold. Cycling causes muscles to become tight, especially the hamstrings, quads and lower back. These forms of exercises help with stretching these muscles out and prevents problems with posture. Although people who practice yoga and Pilates on a regular basis become very strong, it is not a cardiovascular workout and you should still make sure that you get cardiovascular exercise in addition thereto.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Hello Kayla! So, we all know Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide. If you don’t, get yourself acquainted. A year ago I gave this programme a shot for a month or two. I was dead bored after the second week, but I could soon see how beneficial it was for my cycling. I was stronger on the bike and could just push harder for longer. Dynamic plyometric exercises are made up of explosive movements which require shorter workout time and offer great results that will get you faster off the mark. Good news for sprints. The further good news is that you can do them right where you are, as it is based on your own body weight. What fascinates me is how creative people can get about body weight exercises – the possibilities are endless. Instagram is full of inspiration for this.
As you can see, there are many options to keep fit and strong off the bike, there are simply no excuses… except if you go on honeymoon and come back fat, maybe. But after all that’s said and done, I do not have words to describe how happy I am that there’s no gale force wind tomorrow, and I can go ride my bike!