Preventing the Pounds: 9 Winter Crossover Sports for CyclistsKelsey Knoedler
As the temperatures drop, don’t let the blustery fall and winter months and heavy comfort food take a toll on your fitness. There are plenty of winter sports, both indoor and outdoor, that can keep you in shape for next year’s cycling season.
“If your primary goal is hanging onto as much cycling fitness as possible, you’ll want to choose a sport that most closely mimics the movements of cycling,” says Nate Dunn, cycling coach at Data Driven Athlete in Northern California.
With the help of some of the best cycling coaches around the country, we ranked our favorite winter sports in terms of transferable fitness benefit for cyclists. Keep your body in prime shape this winter with one of our Top 9 Winter Crossover Sports for Cyclists.
9 / Yoga
Yoga is a great crossover sport for cycling not only in the winter, but all year-round. Yoga improves your core stability, flexibility, and movement control. “The core work in yoga will make you more stable, comfortable, and powerful on the bike,” says cycling coach Scott Cole, owner of Scott Cole Coaching in Boston. “Plus, the meditative aspect can help reduce stress and depression that can often come with the darker winter months.”
Adnan Kadir, USAC-certified Level 1 cycling coach at Aeolus Endurance Sport in Portland, Oregon, agrees that yoga has both mental and physical benefits that can keep you at your healthiest during the winter. “Yoga is excellent for injury prevention and developing focus,” says Adnan Kadir. It’s great for keeping your muscles strong and lean and improving your posture, a problem for many intense cyclists who might develop back problems.
Coach Tip: “This is a great activity to continue once a week even when the weather gets better!” says Cole.
Check out our list of Top 9 Yoga Poses for Cyclists
8 / Swimming
“Swimming is a good core workout,” says Kadir. Although swimming doesn’t use primary cycling muscles, it’s a great cross-training aerobic workout.
Cole says swimming is a great indoor training activity because you can work on your endurance. “Swimming is highly aerobic, but you can swim for long training sessions for a full-body workout we often miss while cycling.”
Coach Tip: For the most aerobic benefit, swim at a lower intensity for a longer period of time, with a few short, hard intervals sprinkled in.
7 / Downhill Skiing
Downhill skiing is perhaps one of the most common crossover sports for the cycling community (think Aspen and Boulder) and perfect for winter fitness vacations. But what’s the science behind its seasonal cross-training benefits for cyclists? “Just like cycling, the muscles being used are largely the legs and core,” says Nate Rowland, ski instructor and guide at Aspen Alpine Guides in Colorado.
Cole agrees. “Downhill skiing is high in upper-leg activation (think your quads and glutes), and it’s also good training for building the mental acuity and quick decision making required at high speeds on the bike.”
Another great benefit for cyclists hoping to hit the climbs of the Alps or Pyrenees on one of DuVine’s active cycling tours is that downhill skiing involves altitude training. “Any sort of exercise at altitude will encourage more efficient oxygenation of the blood,” says Rowland.
6 / Indoor Rowing
“Indoor rowing is another great cross-training option,” says Tom Cormier, NSCA-CPT USACycling Level 1 Coach at Peloton Coaching in Derry, New Hampshire. “It’s very good for aerobic endurance.” This is a great option for those who live in cities with limited access to good trails for the above sports, since most gyms have row machines.
Rowing uses the most power generated from your legs, just as in cycling, except that with rowing, you’re using both legs at the same time. “Perfect for when the weather is bad, indoor rowing relies heavily on your quads, glutes, and core which generate your on-the-bike power,” says Cole. “It’s also no-impact and easy on the joints, just like cycling.”
Coach Tip: “It’s worth getting a little instruction on proper form to reduce the risk of injury and improve your rowing experience,” says Cole.
5 / Snowshoeing
“Snowshoeing is great! I recommend it to my clients,” says Cormier. Snowshoeing works well for cyclists because it requires a wide stance, stressing and strengthening your muscles differently than hiking. Lifting the snowshoe with every step strengthens the quads, which are key for cycling.
Cole agrees that snowshoeing is a great alternative to winter running. “Snowshoeing is a highly aerobic activity that supplants those longer rides you’re missing,” he says. “It’s very lower-body intensive, which is great for cycling.”
Coach Tip: If you’re setting out in the snowshoes for the first time, start on flatter, shorter trails to avoid soreness and injury. “Plan to wear less than you think you’ll need,” says Cormier. “It’s easy to overheat, and you can always carry extra clothes with you.”
4 / Running
When roads get too slippery for cycling, stick to the sidewalks. Running is a classic fallback fitness option for many cyclists. “Running can be a great activity for cross training and a good way to build some aerobic fitness,” says Cormier.
Since cycling is low impact, it does little to improve bone density or overload ligaments and tendons. Running is more high impact, so it can improve both your aerobic fitness and enhance your bone and tissue health. But Cormier warns that cycling and running feel very different to the body. “You may have great cycling fitness but may not be so good at running mechanics,” he says. “This can lead to some overuse injuries like shin splints.” Cormier recommends finding some trails to run on, as they are easier on the joints.
Coach Tips: Be sure to still wear layers, shoes with good traction, and sweat-wicking gloves, and start off slow. “Make sure to ease into it slowly or the first weeks will be painful,” says Kadir.
3 / Cross-Country Skiing
“Cross-country skiing is arguably the best winter crossover for cycling,” says Cole. “It is a highly aerobic sport that you can do for long duration workouts to really work on that endurance.” Cole says that cross-country skiing also uses many of the same muscles as cycling. “It keeps your legs fit while also helping you work on the often forgotten core and upper body muscles.”
There are two styles of cross-country skiing, both of which are good for winter training: Skate, which requires groomed trails and good technique, and classic, which allows you to ski just about anywhere. “I prefer classic style, as I can pretty much go out my back door to ski,” says Cormier, “and you are moving in the same plane of motion (sagittal) as cycling, so it’s a little more cycle-specific.”
Coach Tip: If you are new to cross-country skiing, start on flat trails to build up your aerobic capability, and the same with snowshoeing—wear lighter clothes, as it’s easy to overheat.
2 / Spinning
Bring the biking indoors by signing up for a spin class or purchasing a Peloton Bike to ride at home. “Spinning in winter helps riders maintain some high intensity fitness,” says Kadir. It’s a great way to do cycling-specific pedaling to prep for your fitness vacations but in a fun, upbeat group setting, and bad weather is never a problem!
“Short, high intensity workouts give you a great bang for your buck both from a fitness and fat-burning perspective,” says Cole. “Plus, these short but intense training sessions still do a good amount to improve your endurance!”
Coach Tip: “Spinning or any indoor cycling classes are a good alternative, but you should check to see if the instructor rides a bike or is a triathlete. If not, you may wind up doing things that you wouldn’t do while riding,” says Cormier.
Check out our Spinning Comparison Chart to help decide what spin studio is right for you!
1 / Cycling
Cycling doesn’t have to stop in the winter. If you’re willing to invest in winter tires, warm gear, and a set of fenders, you can keep cycling all the way through to springtime. But remember not to cycle if you don’t feel comfortable or safe. “Winter cycling is best when the roads are dry and you have proper clothing,” says Cole.
Winter mountain biking is another great option. “Speeds are slower, so wind chill is lower,” says Cormier. “But proper clothing is still a must!”
Coach Tip: “Don’t forget to drink and eat!” says Cole. “With the cold weather and bulky clothes, we often forget to drink and eat during winter riding, but remember you’re still sweating under all those clothes and losing lots of water through your breath!”
Want to keep cycling through the winter, but can’t take the snow and slush? Getaway to one of our warm weather destinations below the equator on our active cycling tours for some sunny cycling to keep you in tip-top shape!
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CATEGORIES: DuVine Style