05 Dec How To Stay Fit in the Cycling Off-Season
Whether you live somewhere with periods of weather that aren’t conducive to cycling or a busy schedule keeps you from hopping on your bike, we often find ourselves hanging up our rides for several months out of the year. Just because we can’t get out and ride doesn’t mean we have to let our brains and bodies atrophy. Here are some of the best ways to stay in tip-top cycling shape.
Recovery and Retaining Strength
While maintaining our physical shape during the off-season is important, you should mostly focus on recovery. Like any physical activity, cycling is good for your body but can also wear it down. During periods of time when you aren’t riding, focus on fixing some of the issues regular riding can create.
Recovering Your Body
Cycling causes restriction, especially in the muscles and bones of your hips. This can cause cyclists to lose pelvic flexibility over time. During the off-season, practicing activities that increase flexibility can prevent some of this loss.
Some activities that can help increase flexibility are yoga, dance, and martial arts.
Other activities that promote “side-to-side” movement are beneficial to negate some of the repetitive motions of cycling as well. Side-to-side motion can help develop stability in the hips as well as the knees and ankles.
Strength training movements like side lunges and monster walks work well to complete this task as well as sports like basketball, tennis, squash, or racquetball. An added bonus to these sports is that they can be played inside, which works great for those who live in climates with harsh winters.
Retaining Strength and Fitness
In addition to allowing your body to recover during your cycling off-season, it’s also a good idea to maintain strength and cardiovascular fitness. No one wants to enter a new cycling season huffing and puffing because they remained stagnant all winter long. Here are a few tips for retaining strength during the off-season.
One of the most difficult tasks for maintaining fitness during the off-season is finding the motivation to exercise. This can be especially difficult if you live somewhere with a harsh winter that prevents you from exercising outside. One of the easiest ways to find motivation is to figure out what type of exercise, besides biking, that you enjoy. If you try to force yourself into an exercise you dislike, it will make it difficult to stick with it. Try different kinds of exercise until you find one you enjoy and can complete regularly.
In the off-season, working out consistently is more important than the intensity of the exercise.
Maintain Cardiovascular Fitness
If you want to be able to jump right back on your bike when the weather clears up, maintaining your cardiovascular fitness is vital. Any exercise that promotes endurance and gets your heart rate up will do well.
Some examples of great cardiovascular activities are swimming, running, and cross-country skiing.
Lower Your Calories
While exercising during the off-season is important, eating well is even more vital to maintaining fitness. Less exercise means your body needs fewer calories. Eat foods with great nutritional value and ensure you consume a balanced diet through the cold winter. To avoid convenient and unhealthy snacking, consider making a food plan or preparing meals in advance. This will help you keep your diet on track.
Other Activities To Replace Cycling in the Off-Season
1. Zwift Training
Zwift is an indoor training app for cycling and running that also acts as a sort of virtual video game. If you’re someone who lives in a place with a long winter or requires the competitive aspect of riding to motivate you to exercise, you will likely enjoy this app.
The downside: the setup is very pricey and can easily run you over $1,000, not including the monthly subscription cost of the app itself.
2. Explore the Outdoors On Foot
Even if you can’t get on your bike in the off-season, you can still get out and explore. Hiking and trail running are fantastic activities that satisfy our love of exploring even when the landscape is covered in snow. You might even get into a new winter activity like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
3. Gym Classes
The off-season could be a unique opportunity to try out classes at your local gym. Many places include spin classes as well as dance, strength, conditioning, and yoga. In addition to being an excellent form of exercise, these classes can provide an opportunity for social interaction with like-minded people. The friends you make in gym classes could be the fellow bicyclists you ride with once the weather warms up.
The Science of Declining Fitness
- Are you curious about how a lack of activity in the off-season could affect your body? Read on to learn how inactivity for long periods of time changes your body.
After months of inactivity, you can expect the volume of your blood to have decreased by between 5% and 12%. The dimensions of your actual heart muscle decrease as well, making your body’s ability to pump blood less efficient. A weakening of the muscles in the ribcage decreases respiratory function.
All of these effects contribute to an overall decline in the amount of oxygen your body can transport to your muscles, leading to a decrease in maximum performance during exercise.
Metabolic and Muscular Changes
Over time, lack of activity will cause your muscles to work harder to produce energy from fat stores. Instead, your muscles will rely more heavily on your stores of carbohydrates, which are more easily converted into energy but are also more limited. Insulin sensitivity, or your muscles’ ability to take up glucose and convert it to energy, is also reduced.
This decrease in metabolism means that for a given level of effort your body produces high levels of lactate in your blood. The lactic acid build-up in your muscles makes it harder to maintain high-intensity training for longer periods of time.
In addition to your muscles becoming less efficient, your muscles themselves can suffer from detraining. The density of your capillaries decreases as well as the concentration of mitochondria. Both of these effects limit the amount of oxygen your blood can provide to your muscles and the efficiency of the process.
Muscular strength is lost as a result of the shrinking of cross-section muscle fibers as well as a decline in cell-signaling hormones associated with gaining and maintaining strength.
Make It Fun
No matter what activity you choose to utilize during your cycling off-season, the most important part is to have fun. Find an activity you enjoy and do it consistently.
How do you spend your off-season? We want to hear from you!