I wanted to take a few minutes to reinforce what you might read in Bicycling or other magazines: there is value to off-the-bike workouts.
I’ve been doing an ‘alternative’ style workout (think Bosu, kettleballs, medicine balls, bodyweight resistance, resistance bands, flipping tractor tires, etc.) for a while now. Because of my body type and my current medical status, I’m in no danger of being mistaken for a Charles Atlas competitor…but I’m probably stronger than I’ve been since college–which is no small accomplishment for a desk jockey such as myself. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still hitting the bike hard and getting miles (and miles and miles and miles), but there’s value in hitting the gym.
I’ve noticed the increased strength in a lot of ways, on and off the bike. For one thing, the exercises I do give me more core strength and balance. You notice that at odd times. For example, I was pulling on a pair of pants the other day, and realized how much more stable I was on 1 foot. No leaning on a counter, no dabbing a toe to maintain balance. It sounds like a little thing, but it’s pretty huge–and you start to notice it all over your life. I keep my bikes on a custom bike loft in my garage…pulling bikes down or putting them back, I’ve noticed greater control and ease in hefting–even with a fatty like the Mukluk.
There are benefits on the bike, too. My ability to jump obstacles has improved. My increased core strength means that I’m comfortable on the bike for longer periods of time–no backaches or discomfort. Leg exercises + bike riding means more power, higher speeds, faster sprints. The generally greater sense of muscle coordination/control and proprioception (sense of body position) gives me greater confidence in all areas of riding, on all terrain.
Again, if you’d look at me, you might not notice the difference. I’m still skinny–and probably always will be. But the off-the-bike workouts have paid dividends for me, on and off the bike.
There are also all of the standard benefits of exercise (stress reduction…getting your aggression out on inanimate exercise equipment, etc.), but those come with cycling too. In addition, if you’re lucky as I am, you’ll find yourself working out with a great group of people who keep you motivated, and who set high standards for performance. Although the group of people I workout with are the best part of my workouts, I’m not going to linger on that…because you can’t workout with them, and the benefits of working out are there regardless of who you do it with (or even if you do it solo).
With my work schedule, I get in a ride one weeknight, and one weekend morning. The rest of my riding and exercise usually involves getting up at 5am. Monday, I was on the bike at 5am, rode for a little over 2 hours, and then went to work and was there until 11:15pm. Tuesday morning, I was up at 5 to make it to the gym for the off-the-bike workout. There definitely are days like that where you don’t want to get up or make the sacrifices. But they’re worth it. Sleep when you’re dead.
I keeed, I keeed. I get sleep, too. But I can honestly say that I’ve never woken up and gone for a ride (or a workout) and wished that I had stayed in bed instead. I was close to that feeling last week with my wipeout, but not quite there. So get out and ride, and then come in and workout. You’ll feel better, on and off the bike.