How to Stay Fit During the Cycling Off-Season

Focus on cardio, muscle fitness and flexibility
How to Stay Fit During the Cycling Off-Season

The cycling off-season may mean hanging up your bike for months at a time. Or, it may just mean that the elements are keeping you from biking as regularly as you would like. But what are the best ways to stay in shape for the road when the weather has you sidelined?

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Michael Schaefer, MD, an avid cyclist and Cleveland Clinic’s Director of Musculoskeletal Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, says you can retain your base strength, but you should also focus on recovery during the off-season.

Cycling is great exercise, but it’s tough on your body in some ways. So it’s a good idea when you’re not riding to correct the issues it can create.

“The off-season is a good time to work against some of the bad biomechanics that cycling subjects you to the rest of the year,” Dr. Schaefer says.

He offers four key tips to help you recover from the biking season and maintain your fitness level while you’re not able to ride.

1. Do what you like so you can stay motivated

As with any kind of exercise, compliance is an important factor to consider. Find things to do that you enjoy during the off-season.

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If you try to force yourself to train, it will only make it harder to stick with it. Try different types of exercise until you find ones that you really enjoy. It’s the best way to keep yourself motivated over time.

2. Keep up with cardiovascular training

Maintaining good cardiovascular fitness is vital if you want to jump back on your bike in great shape when the weather clears.

Dr. Schaefer says sports like running and swimming will help you accomplish this. And, if you live in a snowy area, a great cross-training sport he recommends is cross-country skiing.

3. Rebuild muscle mass with weight training

When you take part in endurance sports like biking, it can rob you of important muscle mass, Dr. Schaefer says. Elite and highly competitive bicyclists are even prone to getting osteoporosis as they age.

The off-season, then, is a great time to work on rebuilding muscle mass through weight training, which in turn helps strengthen your bones. Include some core exercises for strength and balance as well, he says.

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4. Work on better flexibility

Cycling for long periods is inherently restrictive to the muscles and bones in your hips. Cyclists often lose flexibility in this area over time. So, any exercise that helps remedy this is good for your body.

“I’m really a fan of yoga because it addresses the deficits, especially in hip flexibility,” Dr. Schaefer says. “Different kinds of dance and martial arts are good for that as well.”

You may or may not let your bike gather cobwebs during the off-season. But it’s always good to take time out to maintain cardiovascular fitness, build muscle mass and undo some of the fitness challenges that come with biking.

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