Cross-Training For Cyclists

11.26.2007 | 8:53 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new story up on today. You can read the preview below, or skip right to the whole article by clicking here.

Cross training suggestsionAs the days get shorter and – oddly enough – nights get longer this time of year, we cyclists have a big dilemma: how do we stay sharp through the winter, without burning out?

The answer? Simple: Cross-training. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cross-training, allow me to explain. Cross-training is defined as, “Performing an activity you really hate, in the hope that it will make you better at an activity you really like, even though you’re pretty sure you’d become better at the activity you like by simply doing that activity.”

What cross-training activities should you do, then? Well, that depends entirely upon what kind of biking skills you want to improve.
Here are some suggestions.

Track Cyclists
Want to be a faster, more competitive racer at the local velodrome next season? Then you need to cross-train with an eye toward the unique characteristics of your sport.

  • Take up running, track style. Running can help you maintain your aerobic base, but if you’re a track cyclist, you should absolutely not just strap on some shoes and hit the open road. No, if you do that you’ll soon realize that it’s a big, beautiful world out there with a lot to see and a lot of places to go. If you get a taste for going places, the track will lose its appeal forever. Instead, get a nice treadmill, and run on that. This has the two-fold appeal of making sure you get plenty of exercise without seeing anything, and punishing you severely (i.e., making you crash and look like a fool) if you coast for even a millisecond.
  • Head out to the amusement park. Spend lots of time at the local carnival or amusement park. Focus on rides like the carousel, ferris wheel, and tilt-a-whirl/waltzer. If you ever want to be a competitive trackie, you need to build up an extreme tolerance for going round and round and round in a circle.

Cyclocross is a mixed discipline, combining elements of multiple sports. To maximize your suitability for this event, try the following as your cross training events:

  • Learn to Riverdance. The hopping, skipping, high-kicking intensity of this style of dance is perfectly matched to the skills necessary to dismount your bike hit the ground running, jump over a barrier, and then remount.
  • Change careers. To really get into the mindset of cyclocross, you need to be able to switch from riding to running to portaging to jumping and back to riding, over and over with no notice whatsoever. And you need to be able to do it often. To improve your ability to switch tasks like this, find a new job, working for an indecisive, neurotic micromanager. You’ll find that the urgency of his orders combined with the incessant changing of those orders, feels exactly the same as cyclocross, except it goes on all day, five days per week. You’ll have no problem finding a job working for a manager of this sort, since they always seem to have openings in their teams.

Click here to continue reading “Cross-Training for Cyclists” at


  1. Comment by Big Boned | 11.26.2007 | 9:16 am

    As an endurance cyclist, one of the most important skills is the ability to eat on the bike. Cross training for that can be accomplished while sitting on the couch.

  2. Comment by fatty | 11.26.2007 | 9:24 am

    big boned – you are a genius. i shall commence your training program immediately.

  3. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.26.2007 | 9:33 am

    Ouch. I think I need to take up cyclocross. My current job has me emminently qualified. But I am going to cross train for endurance, using big boned’s program, as well.

    Fatty – I emailed that writeup last night – get it?

  4. Comment by | 11.26.2007 | 9:53 am

    If I remember my Fatty Training Tips correctly (feel free to use and/or copywrite that), running is an absolute no-no… or did I miss something?

  5. Comment by Will | 11.26.2007 | 9:57 am

    I like cycling uphill – yes I like to suffer.

    When the snow closes the passes I cross-train by visiting my mother-in-law

  6. Comment by KT | 11.26.2007 | 9:58 am

    You can train for that bunch sprint by trying to go Christmas shopping at the mall, closer the The Big Day… Be sure to use those elbows!

    Shoot… guess I should commence my endurance cycling training by getting back to work, eh?

  7. Comment by cheapie | 11.26.2007 | 10:43 am

    this thread is right on time as i was just doing some shopping for some new running shoes and shorts. but screw it. i don’t like running. new shoes aren’t going to fix that. and my old ones will work until i can start biking again….which, judging by the huge flakes coming down like crazy, won’t be for a long LONG time =(

  8. Comment by Kris | 11.26.2007 | 12:16 pm

    I’m confused. I’ve been doing the Big Boned Endurance Cross Training (BBECT – everything sounds better as an acronym) and while I’ll have to wait until next year to see if it helps on my long rides, the immediate effect is a big loss in fitness (which Fatty championed in a recent post). BTW, I verified the fitness loss on my last ride that involved significant climbing – dismal.

    Fatty, I think you’re giving out too much training advice, some of which conflicts with previous advice, causing confusion among your minions, er, fans. But that wouldn’t make you any different than the “Fitness Experts” who routinely do the same thing, but get paid to do it. Bravo!

  9. Comment by Rio's Rider | 11.26.2007 | 2:59 pm

    I mostly relate to the endurance racer group. Funny that I already have a job where I do the same thing hour after hour. Plus, I just volunteered for the U of U cycling study where they will torture me in the name of science. I’m cross-training already and I didn’t even know it. Thanks for cluing me in, Fatty!

  10. Comment by Born4Lycra | 11.26.2007 | 3:07 pm

    So there really is a use for Riverdancing. Go figure.

  11. Comment by Mike Roadie | 11.26.2007 | 3:27 pm

    What’s the use?? Pass the beer…..I’m training for the EPCOT drink around the world this Thursday!!

  12. Comment by bikemike | 11.26.2007 | 4:29 pm

    yeah, i cross train. instead of taking naps on the couch, in the winter, i take naps on the bed.
    sometimes i get up in the morning, pee, eat a bowl of cereal, take a nap and then get up and go to work.
    watching riverdance on youtube usually makes me want to take a nap.

    are 3 1/2 hour naps a bad thing?

  13. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.26.2007 | 4:31 pm

    3-1/2 naps = interval cross training

  14. Comment by DNAtsol | 11.26.2007 | 5:43 pm

    Frankly I don’t get it. Why would you need to stop cycling?

    Add a parka, some muk luks, artic mitts and you’re set for kit. For the bike, take along some flares, snow chain and a little extra rock salt and you can get through anything.

    When I was in grad school I had a beat up Canadian Tire $100 special road bike. I road everyday through nasty Hamilton Ontario winters. Now admittedly that was because I couldn’t afford bus fare ….. but still.

  15. Comment by Frank | 11.26.2007 | 6:08 pm

    Hey DNAtsol, I bet it was uphill both ways too!!!

  16. Comment by leroy | 11.26.2007 | 8:05 pm

    Hmmph, what’s the big deal? When I was a kid we rode to school uphill both ways through blizzards. And that was summer school.

  17. Comment by DNAtsol | 11.26.2007 | 9:32 pm

    Hey Frank,

    Uphill both ways? I wish! That would have been luxury. Back in “those” days we were lucky if we had a paved road or even a road at all. I had to pop that baby up a mountain cliff like a billy goat and when I got to school the janitorial staff would tilt the whole campus so that I had do do the whole thing on the way home too but this time I had to avoid the rabid lab reared billy goats that had escaped from the biology dept.

    Pfft! up hil both ways HAH! IIIIIII fart in your general direction…. :)

  18. Comment by SpikeBlue | 11.27.2007 | 2:46 am

    Completely off topic:

    For anyone looking for a SWEET X-mas present, Garmin is offering $75 off the Garmin Edge 305 if you sign up for the free Powerbar Newsletter until November 30th.

    That means the price of $271.41 is dropped to $196.41.

    The form for getting the $75 rebate is at under the Current Promotions section.

    Happy Holidays!

  19. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 11.27.2007 | 4:20 am

    I’ve been biting my tongue but can’t help myself. DNA don’t you find the flares get caught in your chainring – oh sorry I should not have done that but I did. I suppose I might get sentenced to the comfy chair………

  20. Comment by RubyBlue | 11.27.2007 | 7:47 am

    Wahoo – I’m an Irish dancing (sorry fatty Riverdance is a weirdo show that just launched irish dance into the spot light) cyclist. I just wish my cadence matched my treble speeds. ;)

  21. Comment by DNAtsol | 11.27.2007 | 9:57 am

    Well Played Born 4 Lycra. Well played. Winner by a tread! It took my a few minutes to change my mindset and get the joke but I laughed so hard when I did! Hilarious.

  22. Comment by KT | 11.28.2007 | 10:20 am

    Bikemike, sounds like we have the same routine, only mine goes like this:

    Get up at the crack of dawn. Walk the dog, who’s been standing in the hallway whining for 10 minutes. Come home, eat breakfast. Go back to bed. Eventually, get up and get ready for work.

    Sometimes, though, I sub time on the trainer for going back to bed. But it’s difficult when it’s so dark in the morning! All I want to do is sleep! :)

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