Five things cyclists need to do off the bike
I’ve been obsessed with riding bikes for a large part of my life now but for much of that time I didn’t scratch too deep below the surface, I just hopped whichever bike I fancied riding and pedaled away.
But since getting into the more performance related side of things, progressing in racing and taking training seriously, I’ve learned so many things which looking back, I realise it would have been useful to me even then.
There are simple things you can incorporate into your life off the bike that will potentially improve your performance, assist with injury prevention, keep you strong into old age and ensure your health in the long run. So now for me, what I do off the bike is as important as what I do on it.
If you’re participating in Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 (like I am with my buddies at ŠKODA) you might think it’s a little late to be considering any changes to what you’re doing. But my suggestions are designed to compliment your cycling, whatever form it takes.
I’d recommend that everyone add these off-the-bike essentials to their training routine if they are working to a weekly schedule, factoring in the time necessary when you plan your timetable. If you’re not sticking to any kind of cycling training plan, I’d still suggest that you try and find some sort of off the bike routine to stick to ensure they become regular additions to your life. Otherwise you’ll get to the end of the week and realise you’ve neglected to do them.
Why not start now? Read on for my top five tips.
It’s generally believed that tightness in certain muscles can be detrimental to your performance as well as leading to discomfort or even injury. Cycling puts you in a very static position so stretching after riding can help you to loosen up and maintain your flexibility. Better mobility will mean you’re more comfortable on your bike.
I’d recommend that at the very least, you stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors and quads and do some work on spine mobility. Aim to spend ten minutes after a ride stretching, whether that’s as soon as you get home or a bit later on after you’ve showered and eaten.
If you struggle to motivate yourself, get yourself down to a weekly yoga class for some quality stretching and mobility work.
- Foam rolling
Essentially, foam rolling works like a combination of stretching and massage – it’s another way to aid recovery, relieve soreness, keep muscles flexible and perform better on the bike.
Using a foam roller massages the muscles and fascia that covers our muscles like a sheath. Through exercise, the fascia can become kind of bunched up with adhesions or knots – the foam rolling can help relieve this and assist in returning the fascia to a smooth state so you are less sore and are better able to move.
Check out this video I made for more info:
- Proper rest
The next thing I suggest you add into your routine might be a bit of a surprise and certainly it’s something that I resisted when I was first instructed to include it by my then coach. It’s when you rest that your muscles rebuild and adapt to the training you’ve been doing so if you skip it, your body is always playing catch up and never properly progressing.
As I said, when I first began training properly I fought the idea of doing nothing so I used to go mountain biking or BMXing on a rest day, figuring I was having a rest from my road bike training so that was enough. I was wrong I’m afraid! Whilst I’m not suggesting you give up all the fun stuff you enjoy so that you can just knock out brutal training sessions, make sure you do factor in some quality rest time (at least a full day a week).
Put your feet up, drink tea, cuddle cats, read books and CHILL! You’ll not only improve your physical performance, you’ll get a mental recharge that’ll mean you put more effort into your next ride.
- Strength training
Cycling is a non weight bearing exercise and us ladies need weight bearing exercises to build bone density and ward off osteoporosis. Include some strength training weekly.
From a cycling perspective, training can improve your performance, particularly if you include work to increase core strength – with a strong and stable core you’ll move your upper body less meaning the power from your legs goes into the pedals not your torso. Working on your glutes, quads and hamstrings can help improve power and prevent fatigue and a strong upper body can help with your sprinting.
One of my favourite and most effective workouts uses mainly bodyweight and little equipment so don’t be put off if you’re not a member of a gym, just get started at home. I do also lift weights at the gym, which I find both enjoyable and effective. If you’d like to incorporate any weight training, speak to a personal trainer who can show you the safe way to do so.
- Eat well
Eating properly on the bike is very important – without enough fuel you won’t be able to perform well. But it’s just as crucial that you pay adequate attention to your diet the rest of the time, particularly if you’re training hard or you risk getting run down and ill. A good diet will support your hard work and allow you to recover and thrive. Put it this way, putting rubbish, dirty fuel in your car will affect its performance.
Aim for a good balance of carb, proteins and micronutrients, which are found in salads and vegetables. Fats are essential but are not all created equal so best consumed in a form that’s beneficial – think avocado, nuts, seeds, fish and dairy.
Consumed straight after exercise, the amino acids in protein help build muscle and repair small tears so that you recover more quickly and are therefore able to get back to training faster.