Tuesday, 19 January 2016

It's not all about the bike

On Saturday 9th January, I braved the snow, ice and cold to join a few others for my weekly group training ride on the road bike.  It was pretty sketchy in places but most of the main roads were fine and it was great to be out for a good training ride.

Despite the cold, it was great to be out on the bike!

Skip forward a week to this weekend just gone and it was a whole other level of snow here in Glasgow.  I was all ready, just about to step out the door for a road ride on Saturday morning and my street turned white!  I went back inside and did a session on the turbo trainer instead.

While I'm happy spending time on the turbo trainer at this time of year, I knew if I had to spend Sunday indoors again I'd probably go crazy!  I could have got out on my mountain bike, as it's loads of fun in the snow, but sometimes it's not all about the bike . . . 

. . . and that brings me onto winter cross training.

Cross training simply means doing a different sport or activity instead of the usual bike training.  You may wonder why I would want to spend time doing something else when my training is focused on doing well in bike races.  Well, there are a few reasons:
  1. It can still help improve your aerobic capacity, strength, power, specific bike-related muscle groups and various other areas that will help your riding
  2. It provides a bit of variety so you don't get bored on the bike
  3. It gives you the chance to do something on a day when the weather or something else may prevent you from riding your bike
Earlier in my training plan, back in October and November, I was spending a bit of time wearing these:

I've got an old running injury that prevents me doing a lot of running these days, especially on hard surfaces, but for the first few weeks of my current training plan, back in October/November, I was doing a couple of 5km runs each week.  It helped ease me back into training.  It provided some variety.  It stimulated muscles I probably don't use as much on the bike.  And it gave me a quick 30 minute workout I could fit in after work rather than spending time on the turbo trainer.  There was still plenty of time for the turbo trainer in the coming dark, cold winter months!

Unless you're a duathlete or triathlete, you obviously don't need to spend time running to improve your performance.  However, even if you're focused solely on cycling like me, consider doing a bit of running earlier in your training plan to mix things up a bit.  Try to stick to soft ground and make sure you have a well-fitted, supportive pair of trainers though, as you don't want to risk any running injuries preventing you getting back on the bike!

So, back to the weekend just passed.  I didn't want to spend another day indoors.  I could have gone somewhere with my mountain bike for some fun in the snow.  However, I instead decided to spend a day pursuing my other sporting passion: skiing.  We arrived at Nevis Range ski resort, just about 2.5 hours drive north of Glasgow, to be welcomed by great conditions.  Loads of early season snow up on the mountain (Aonach Mor) and great visibility.

I was pretty excited to get skiing again for the first time this year.  Skiing was my previous sporting passion before mountain biking, and I still love it.  It's also great cross training if you're a cyclist.

I used to worry about missing a day of training to go skiing but I've realised I can get just as good a workout at the same time as adding a bit of variety and doing something else I really enjoy.  A lot of mountain bikers do ski or snowboard too, so don't spend your whole time on the bike at the cost of not enjoying your snowsports passion - you can still get a good workout.

Even if you spend the whole day skiing downhill, make sure you complete full runs and don't stop too much.  Throw in more turns - the more you turn, the more you'll be working your legs.  In fact, it's a really good way to work some muscle groups you may not fully engage as much on the bike.  I find it helps hip stability, quads, glutes and calves in slightly different ways from the bike.  It will also work some of the same skills and reflexes you require on a mountain bike:  skiing tight turns around trees or moguls helps with your quick decisions and turns when you're back on a bike.  

You also get just as stunning scenery (if not better?!) with snowsports:

You'll get a pretty good workout spending all day on skis or a snowboard, using the ski lifts.  However, if you really want to include a good cardio workout to make up for the cycling you're missing, you could do what I do and invest in a set of skins for your skis.  I use Black Diamond ones.

What are skins?  Basically, a material that you stick to the base of your skis that allows you to ski uphill.  Why on earth would anyone want to ski uphill?  Well, plenty of people use them to go off piste into the back country and seek out more challenging terrain.  However, my main use is actually for a workout.  You also need touring bindings on your skis, that will let you release the heel to go uphill (although not to be confused with telemark bindings).  I tend to do a couple of hours normal downhill skiing, then stick the skins on, loosen my boots, release the heel of my binding and then spend an hour or two "skinning" uphill.

You can just make out the hook at the front of my skins, over the tip of the skis, in this photo

Not only does this give me a great leg workout, but it also stresses my aerobic system.  I got a great 1 hour workout on Sunday, as well as all the downhill skiing, with my average heart rate in Zone 2 and going right up to Zone 5 at one point as I pushed hard up the side of a red ski run.  I sometimes venture a bit further afield like in the photo above, but if you want to keep it safe you can just skin up the side of the marked ski runs, staying well out of the way of the downhill skiers and boarders, and you'll get a great workout.  If you're heading off piste, make sure you are with someone, have a transceiver, probe and shovel, and know how to use them.  But if you just want a workout, stick next to the safety of the marked runs.

Then, a bit like on a bike, you get the satisfaction of having fun heading back downhill again without having had a lift pull you up there!

So, what's the point of all this . . . as it's not just to show you nice photos of skiing in Scotland!

Well, what I'm trying to say is: don't beat yourself up if you take a day off the bike to do something else you enjoy - it's all cross training.  You can take something like skiing, or running, or any other sport you enjoy, and turn it into a workout that will actually benefit you when you're back on the bike.  Plus, with the added benefit of a bit of variety and the stunning scenery you've seen above, it's not just great for your body; it's great for your mind too!

I'll be back on the turbo trainer tonight, but I'm so glad I didn't spend Sunday on it and got up north skiing instead!  

Check back soon for my next blog on turbo trainer tips for when you do need to spend time indoors.  I'll also be providing a few tips on gym strength exercises you can do to help your cycling, following some great Personal Training sessions I've had with the expert staff at my new sponsor, Origins Fitness gym.

1 comment:

  1. Biking in winter is thrilling and adventurous but safety is also require at same time, thanks for sharing this great tips.read more etc