Cross-Train Like A Pro
The weekend is a beautiful two-day period that comes immediately after a long work week. It’s a time when mountain bikers can forget about those unfinished TPS reports and trade in their work attire for riding gear. The views of the office cubical turn to singletrack, and the desk chair becomes a saddle. Your grasp is no longer around a computer mouse; instead, it’s around your handlebars. The weekend is what mountain bikers dream of, but for professional mountain bikers who punch the time clock and ride all week, the weekend can be a time to explore other activities and hobbies. Athletes, not wanting to get burnt out, often do other sports for cross-training and to reset their brains for another long work week. Of course, these pro athletes wouldn’t trade their day jobs for the world, but it made us want to know, what does a person who works on his bike all week do on the weekends? We decided to reach out and ask a few pros what other sports they love to do and how those activities benefit their riding. Here are the hobbies, sports and activities the pros do, not only to prevent burnout, but to become stronger, better athletes.
There are two activities that I have always done for cross-training—gym work and riding moto. I feel both offer benefits that translate directly to riding a bicycle. We ride a bike that weighs around 30 pounds, while our body weight is around five to seven times that amount. It’s often the forces, direction changes and watts needed to obtain a winning pace that require a rider to look for alternative ways to ride a bike really, really fast.
In the gym, we can replicate with exercise the power needed to sprint up to speed, lift to bunny hop a large gap or absorb a high-speed G-out. The repetition and weight used in the gym will allow you to create this better than simply riding laps on your bike.
Riding moto is another great tool that I feel can only benefit your cycling, allowing you to train at higher speeds for longer periods of time while also maneuvering a machine that is seven to nine times heavier than a bicycle. Reading terrain and processing it at high speeds is important for riding fast, and the motorcycle allows you to replicate this. When you switch from your motorcycle to your bicycle, it will feel much easier to throw it around at speed.
I typically do a few exercises outside of riding my mountain bike, including gym and weight training, road cycling, cyclocross riding and yoga. Each has its own benefits.
Gym weight training keeps my overall strength up and allows me to maintain my body position better on the bike over long days in the saddle during an EWS [Enduro World Series] race.
Road cycling offers basic conditioning and high-end cardio work. I can do harder cardiovascular efforts on the road bike because I don’t have to worry about technical descents like I do on my mountain bike.
Cyclocross riding is fun and also offers some great conditioning. Riding cross-country trails on a CX [cyclocross] bike makes things a little spicier and keeps me on my toes during a long day on the bike.
For yoga, I mainly do flow-style yoga, but I also religiously attend restorative yoga classes. It challenges the mind and body to get quiet and calm down. With so much “go, go, go” in my life with training, racing and family, it’s hugely beneficial to dedicate some time to meditation and calming my central nervous system down at least once a week. I have found this very beneficial when it comes to racing. I can maintain focus better during race days, which is incredibly beneficial, because there are many uncontrollable variables in enduro racing.
My favorite cross-training is dancing. I love dancing! Not only is it really fun, but dancing helps me with my flexibility and balance, which often saves me from injuries. The flexibility dancing gives me also helps prevent me from having back pain while climbing.
For specific cross-training, I get in about three strength training sessions in the gym per week. But to generally stay active in the off-season, I also like to hike, trail run, backpack and ride my Pivot Mach 5.5 as much as possible. My preference is to do activities that keep me outdoors.
Off the bike I spend a lot of time in the gym and doing yoga. Both of these activities mix up my training and actually contribute a lot to strength, flexibility and injury prevention on the bike. In the winter, I also love to cross-country and downhill ski!
Physically, I think there is a huge benefit to cross-training. Mountain biking requires full-body strength and coordination, which can be developed very effectively in the gym. Yoga is a great way to maintain flexibility and balance and aid recovery after long hours on the bike.
Cycling is also a sport that involves a lot of repetition and spending long hours in the same position on the bike. Both strength training and yoga help to maintain balance and prevent overuse injuries.
There is also a big mental component to cross-training. Yoga, for example, is a really important way that I incorporate active recovery on rest days and allow my mind and body to calm down after hard training blocks. Strength training also serves a mental purpose. It is fun for me because it is different. It helps me challenge myself in new ways and remain focused and motivated to push hard on the bike.
My main source of cross-training is skiing and surfing a stand-up paddleboard. Paddleboard surfing helps me by exercising my upper body much more than I can on the bike. It has me standing instead of bending over like I do when I’m riding. It also helps straighten me out and opens up my hips.
Both skiing and SUPing [Stand Up Paddleboarding] help my balance and work the small stabilizing muscles in my core much more than the bike. Snow skiing is actually where freeriding came from, because of its open terrain and the ability to choose any line. Skiing helps me with line choices and seeing possibilities of things that can be ridden and how to ride them from a different perspective.
The main activities I do off the bike would have to be surfing and moto riding. I used to do a heap of skate and surf comps when I was younger but had to give up the skating once my riding got serious because I used to get hurt a lot.
I think motocross is a great way to cross-train for obvious reasons. The fitness aspect aside, you’re trying to hang onto a big heavy bike, so it definitely makes you feel a little stronger once you get back on a 17-kilogram [37.5 pound] downhill bike. Moto helps with arm pump on long, rough tracks like Fort William. Riding a lot of moto makes it easier to hang on for a full lap without feeling like your arms are going to blow off.
Surfing has many benefits, too, that are definitely helpful and beneficial to my riding. I think the balance and timing aspects of surfing can cross over to when you are riding bikes. The balance part is pretty self-explanatory, but most of surfing is about timing—timing when to do a turn, when to race a section or when to stall and wait for the wave to build. You have to make decisions very fast in the heat of the moment; otherwise, you screw up—kind of like riding. When you’re bombing down hills trying to pick your line, you need to be sharp and precise with your timing. A little too early or a little too late could mean the difference between nailing a section and hitting a big rock or tree.
My cross-training is a mix of a few different things. In the winter, I lift some weights and play pickup basketball at my school’s gym. During the season, I scale back the strength training a bit but continue with plyos [jump training] and core workouts. I’ve recently taken up rock climbing at a really nice gym near my house. Climbing has been awesome for my upper-body and core strength, and I’ve had a lot of fun trying to improve. It’s important to find cross-training in something you enjoy, like basketball or climbing, to help keep things fresh along the way.
I think cross-training is helpful in many ways. It prevents overuse injuries and provides stabilization to my training. In the gym, I’ll do a fair number of balance exercises to replicate the muscles I use while racing.
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