Huge thank you to Coach Michel van Musschenbroek from Mill Creek High School for putting together this off-season workout guide!
Spring is the perfect time for developing your fitness base for your upcoming cycling season. These early days of the year can provide you with the opportunity to create the foundation for a successful racing season, or….for just riding with your friends.
Riding on trainers is a great way to train. With all the virtual software out there and online club rides, there are many options to choose from. These programs can be a lot of fun, but they don’t challenge your core muscles; those muscles needed for balancing your bike while navigating through rooted, winding single track trails. These core muscles are critical for riding. When they get tired, your whole body is fighting to find your center balance, draining you of the energy better served pushing the pedals. Here are some exercises which will help you to strengthen your core and help keep you upright (photos and video courtesy of Bicycling.com).
Great! We are now working on our core muscles and getting stable, but the trainer is not helping us with the other variable I almost discussed above. With the challenging trails, we have to use our arms, shoulders and neck (which has to carry a helmet – most of us don’t on the trainer). Again, if you are not balanced in your fitness, your riding will suffer as the energy will be used to ensure you don’t hit the tree in front of you, instead of pushing the pedals.
Below you will find some nice exercises to help strengthen you. Note: the goal is to get stronger, not bigger. You don’t need to use massive weight, just enough to provide some resistance.
Wonderful…I am working my core, my upper and lower body are getting stronger and I am putting hours on the trainer…everything is falling into place like a Jenga game…or is it? Nope…you forgot one thing…STRETCHING!!!! You have stamina, you have strength, but if you muscles are not fluid and flexible, you will actually be fighting against yourself when you pedal.
Take a look at your legs. Your quadriceps on one side, hamstrings on the other. What do you think will happen if I try to extend my leg but my hamstrings are tight? Two things – 1) more effort will be required to extend the leg, due to the resistance of the hamstring and 2) I might “pull” my hamstring, which is a nice way of saying, “I am currently tearing the muscle fibers”, which doesn’t sound nice at all.
With the repetitive nature of the trainer and little to no change in body posture, our muscles can actually shorten. (the trainer is not the sole culprit – all cycling will do this) Our hip flexors, our hamstrings are constantly denied full extension. If we don’t stretch the muscles after training, we are setting ourselves up for possible injury. These stretches in the link will provide you with a nice routine.
Remember, training and building a foundation is important, but we must look at the complete picture to enjoy a successful, healthy, injury free racing season.
Special Note: These exercises should not cause you pain. If you are experiencing any, see a doctor or maybe call a coach, you may be doing the exercise incorrectly and need a little guidance.