For me cross-training plays an enormous role in my life. To succeed in a downhill race I must have muscle power, combined with cardiovascular strength as well as a calm and complete mental focus. Then add the bike skill to combine all of those things while riding a variety of challenging terrain. Our bikes are made for descending, making getting the right amount of training and bike time a challenge as I need a shuttle or lift to practice. I cross train for racing in a variety of different ways. Weight lifting, yoga, motocross, xc and road riding to name a few. They all have their different benefits and challenges that allow me to improve as an athlete.
If you spend a lot of time doing a repetitive movement you can over develop the strength in some of your muscles, leaving others under-developed or not being used properly. While riding you probably notice that one leg is more dominant than the other so use your winter time to work on balancing your body. I find I can achieve this best at the gym with unilateral exercises to balance L and R. Weight lifting is a fun way to increase strength in a controlled environment where you can monitor your improvement, set and achieve daily and weekly goals.
It is important to add variety to your exercise routines to not only get the benefits from different activities but for mental stimulation. In the winter I try and get on my motocross bike as it gets me more comfortable with high speeds and instead of moving around a 37lb bike, it’s a 200lb bike. I’m not saying go buy a motocross bike, but I’m sure most of you love riding for more than just the health benefits. So maybe try a new discipline of cycling. The local BMX track is a a great place to practice bike skill and it turns into quite a work out!
What I love about road riding is that I’m able to travel such a great distance in a relatively short period of time. It’s also easier for me to work within heart rate zones opposed to say running or xc riding where the terrain plays a much greater role in my heart rate. It also gives me the opportunity to work on the efficiency of my pedal stroke, something very beneficial but hard to practice.
With all cycling there is the element of risk that can sometimes leave you mentally drained. Yoga helps calm my mind and release stress, which then translates into better days on the bike. If I can’t make it to a class I just dim the lights and do some of the basic postures and poses.
Remember it isn’t one thing you’ll do that will help you accomplish your goals, but every detail in your life. Cross-training is just one piece of that puzzle, no less important then maintaining your equipment, resting, or eating nutritious food for example.