For many of us, cold weather means it’s time to hang the bike in the garage and pack on a few pounds. First comes Halloween and a bounty of candy, then Thanksgiving with its usual turkey feast, then Christmas and New Year’s, and as long as we’re on a roll, we might as well go out on Valentine’s day and eat a big dinner and a few boxes of chocolates….
And by springtime you don’t need to look around for the motivation you need to get back on your bike. Motivation jiggles when you walk down the stairs and mercifully blocks your view of the scale.
An off season is good for you. It gives your body the period of rest it needs to recuperate and it gives you a much-needed mental break that keeps your sport from becoming stale. When springtime rolls around you are psyched up and ready to ride.
Still, if you don’t want to wave goodbye to all of the fitness gains you made this year and still want to keep up with you healthy, active lifestyle, consider taking up a new sport that works well with the changing weather, gives your body new challenges, and has a crossover benefit for cycling.
When it comes to Fall and Winter, there are great outdoor opportunities right where you are that can keep your motivation to exercise high.
Mountain Biking and Cyclocross
If you’re not ready to give up cycling but riding on the road is getting tough with cold winds and less and less daylight, look into riding off-road. Mountain biking and cyclocross both involve much lower speeds than road cycling (which keeps windchill down) and extremely powerful bursts of effort (which keeps body-heat up).
Since most mountain biking trails are in wooded areas, you tend to get a lot more windbreak. A well-travelled trail that is packed hard can even be comfortably ridden in the middle of winter, provided you get a moderately warm, sunny day.
Running is excellent cross training for cycling. It is far less weather-dependent (you don’t lose much foot traction in the rain) and because you move at lower speeds it’s easier to keep warm. The fact that you carry your own weight means that it has similar benefits to resistance training for cyclists: increased hip extension power and core strength.
Running is also highly accessible- if you have sneakers and a stretche of road or trail, you can run.
Cross Country Skiing
Nordic skiing is one of the best types of cross training available to cyclists who live where snow and ice keep you off of the roads for months at a time. The fitness benefits are tremendous because of the total use of upper and lower body muscles. It’s also a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors when most people would rather be inside, brooding. You’ll find the energy demands to be similar to mountain biking where you need to maintain a high level of aerobic output while also doing some powerful hill climbing and very skillful descending.
It’s also a relatively cheap sport to enter. Whereas an entry-level road bike, plus helmet, kit, shoes, and pedals will set you back around $1300, you can get into a basic touring package for around $300, or both skate and classic skis, boots, and two sets of poles for under $600, retail.
Whatever you choose, finding a sport that keeps you active and having fun in the Fall and Winter will do wonders for your fitness and happiness year-round.