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Off-season fitness


Widg Robin Belly Zip Bicycle

Indoor cycling and core exercises

Story by Robin Robertson

It’s dark. It’s raining. It’s below 40° F. There are galeforce winds. Any one of those reasons makes it uninspiring to go out and ride your bike. Don’t despair – but don’t just hang up your cycling shorts until the spring either. I always look at the fall as the time for change, with emphasis on core training and switching gears to indoor training.

To get better at cycling, you do need to cycle more. You use your body in a very specific way, with neuromuscular connections made to produce power for the physiological needs of pedaling a bike. But you won’t get stronger by going hard all the time. There is lots of wisdom to giving your body and mind a break, even from your beloved bicycle.

Cross-training: Get off your bike!

October is a great month to go do some other fun activities like taking a hike, doing some paddling or going on a run. Give yourself a change of pace and your body will thank you. If you can’t see getting off your bike, do something different with your bike – switch to trail riding or mountain biking and explore some of the world’s best trails on Galbraith and Chuckanut. Do cyclocross. Turn in your mountain bike for some road rides. Try a unicycle.

Keeping fit: The dreaded indoor trainer

The best way to keep fit for cycling is to keep cycling. Other activities such as running will help, but it isn’t a 100 percent crossover. In cycling you use specific muscles in a specific pattern that is not exactly replicated by other activities.

As much as I want to get outside and ride mid-week during the winter, it just doesn’t happen because of darkness, weather and work. Indoor cycling is the best way to keep your base level of fitness, or even improve it. Every hour of indoor training equals about 1.5 hours of outdoor riding. That’s because you get no rest on a trainer – no coasting, no drafting.

Plan out a program of building and recovery throughout the winter to increase your level of fitness rather than lose it. If you want guidance, I really like the Carmichael DVDs, especially the “Progressive Power” series. If you want company, try attending spinning classes or a winter training camp.

Core Strength

After cycling all summer you have legs of steel, but your back hurts and you are still carrying your spare tube around your belly. Think about this – on a bike you are supported in a tripod position by the saddle, handlebars and pedals. This position depends on core strength but doesn’t build it.

Your core is the foundation for all of the movement (and power) from your hips down. As you tire on the bike you might find that your hips seesaw on the saddle, your pedal stroke suffers, your lower back aches and you slow down through corners.

Take charge of your core! You’ll want to focus on your innermost abdominal muscle (transverse abdominous) that acts like a stabilizing girdle around your torso; your twisting (rotational) muscles (obliques); and your lower back (multifidus and erector spinae).

Here are four core exercises that will help you get stronger this fall and winter:

Belly Zip Bicycle

Lie on your back with your lower back pressed to the ground. Pull down your belly like you are zipping up a tight pair of pants. Hold this belly position throughout the exercise.

Rest your hands behind your head without pulling on your neck. Alternate bringing opposite elbow to knee as you “bicycle” kick. The key here is to stay controlled with a slower movement, around 70-80 repetitions per minute, keeping your belly zipped.

Belly Zip Hip Lift

Lie on your back with your hands under your hips, press your back to the floor and “zip in” your belly as above. Bring your legs to perpendicular (together and straight) so your feet are pointing to the ceiling.

Keeping your belly zipped, lift (with control) your heels toward the ceiling and release back to the floor (with control). Your feet should not be flailing about – try to keep them perpendicular (do not use momentum for this move, just lift). If this is too tough, start in the same position and, instead of lifting, lower your straight legs to just above the floor and return them to perpendicular.

Iso-Stabilized Plank

Lying on your belly, place your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your toes/balls of your feet on the floor. Now (this is key), before you rise into the plank position, contract all of the muscles in your legs and butt, then all the muscles in your core. Holding this fullbody contraction, lift into the plank position and hold for 7–10 seconds.

Release and repeat.

Back Builders

This exercise can be done on the floor, on a BOSU or stability ball, or in a pinch with a couple of pillows under your hips. Lie facing down on the floor and place your hands on your forehead with elbows out.

Lift just your upper torso off the floor about 8 inches. Do not hyperextend your back by arching up further. Slow is the key – as you get stronger you can hold in the upper position for several counts. X

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