Want to be a better cyclist? The road to better cycling goes through the gym (true) but there are other ways for those who don’t like the gym. One of my favourite cross trainers is trail running, a terrific way to improve your all round fitness in ways that will translate to performance improvements on your bike.
Consider these three categories:
Power transfer – When you are trail running you can’t afford to be lazy about your posture or balance. It is a constant core workout which we need as cyclists especially when we get deep into fatigue. A strong core provides the steady platform for the legs to drive off, markedly improving power transfer to the pedals. As a nice extra bonus, running is obviously done in the upright position. This helps lengthen the trunk muscles and hip flexors which tend to shorten with all the hours spent bent over the bike.
Cardiovascular intensity – for the same relative intensity effort cardiac output tends to be higher while trail running than on the bike. Although your muscles are working differently, when you are running hard on the trail both your heart rate and O2 consumption will be higher than a similar effort cycling. Remember that the main limiter of endurance performance is oxygen delivery to working muscles. Cross training your body to move oxygenated blood faster is well worthwhile.
Hip Work – the constant balance corrections needed in trail running help give the lateral hips more of a work out than just cycling which is mostly forwards and back. This outside hip work helps in the long run to prevent knee and hip problems.
As always, start slowly and remember progress is a matter of consistency more than intensity. Mix your training up a little, especially in the off season and your cycling will benefit.
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