Cycling is a great form of exercise, but we could all probably do with a little variation in our training to stretch leg muscles and strengthen the core. This is true at any time of year, but what cycling nut wants to spend time in a sweaty gym when the sun is shining and the roads are begging you to hit the tarmac – the opportunity to ride your bike will always win over an exercise class.
But what about when the weather turns and it’s less easy to get out, be it down to poor weather or lack of daylight hours? The obvious solution is to turn to the turbo trainer, lock yourself away in your garage – if you have the budget to buy top range software, you’ll be able to transport yourself to fantastic virtual locations and race against other riders – or plonk yourself in the living room so that you can watch TV at the same time. But time on the turbo doesn’t suit everyone and, in any case, why not take the opportunity to keep fit in other ways?
Most of us live within relatively easy reach of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools, so why not take a look at you can do locally? Desperately need a pedaling fix? Spin classes are all the rage and will give you a really good workout – they are as hard as you want them to be, and are a good alternative for anyone with two left feet who struggles with choreographed aerobic classes.
Yoga really complements cycling and will keep you flexible and supple whilst improving strength. The plank is just one yoga position that has become a mainstream exercise for improving power and stability on the bike, so just imagine what a yoga class could do for you in the long term. You’ll find a variety of classes, from classic yoga to hot yoga (you guessed it, yoga in a hot and humid studio) to antigravity yoga, which is a bit like acrobatics in an elasticated hammock – Google it, it looks amazing!
Like yoga, Pilates is great for general fitness with particular emphasis on core strength. It’s improves muscle tone, balance and joint mobility – perfect for cyclists!
If lack of cycling is leaving you climbing the walls, why not do just that – climb a wall. You don’t need to be planning to conquer Everest to get a kick out of climbing and it’s great for strength and agility. Climbing is also really good for mental strength and confidence building – proving you can get past that tricky overhang or reach higher than before is not unlike the challenge of getting up a particularly steep hill.
There are also plenty of things you can do from the comfort of your own home. It’s easy to find information on exercise online (both general and cycling specific) or you could pick up an exercise DVD to motivate you into action – Davina McCall anyone?! Having a few pieces of equipment to hand is also useful. An exercise ball is good for working on core strength – its instability means you have to use your muscles more to keep stable. Stretchy resistance bands will give your arm and leg muscles an extra workout. And that most humble of activities, skipping, is incredibly good for getting your heart and lungs working (think more Rocky and Raging Bull and less kids in the playground). Skipping for short intervals will build leg strength and is particularly good if you enjoy sprint cycling – try adding in 2-3 minutes of skipping in between other exercises.
And if you can’t bear being cooped up in the gym or at home, how about a quick run. Parkrun organises free 5km timed runs all over the place and it’s more fun than running round the block on your own. Or find a running pal through Jogging Buddy.You could even treat yourself to a Simon’s Cat running top so that you really look the business!
Whatever you choose to do through the winter months, any exercise will pay off when you are able to cycle more regularly and any challenges you’ve set yourself in the first few months of 2016 will definitely be more achievable.