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Cross Training for Mountain Biking

June 11 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California

We all love bikes more than just about anything on the planet. And the last thing we want to do is risk losing our gains in fitness or skill. Yet there can be some potent pluses for mixing things up. Taking time away to miss your two-wheeled friend can add that boost of excitement that keeps things feeling crispy. No need to reach mental or physical burnout before taking a little space. Weather and seasons can bring us natural pauses in our cycling addiction too. So embrace the space! Sprinkle in other ways to balance your body, recover from any trail mishaps you’re still healing from, and still get serious workouts while you hit the refresh button.

There are endless options for cross-training. It doesn’t have to be a drag, either. Find the sports and activities that speak to you and keep it fun. For those of you who want our top picks for workouts that translate directly to your riding, let the recommendations commence.

Especially up steeper terrain. Trail running uphill is the next best thing to climbing on your mountain bike and trains the same muscle groups. You get a serious workout in less than half the time you’d spend riding, so it’s great for days when you have limited time too. For more tips on how to train in when you’re short on time, we’ve got plenty for you here. 

If you’ve got access to mountainous regions in the winter, backcountry skiing provides killer workouts that translate super well to mountain biking. Not to mention the fun factor is next to none on powder days. Just make sure you have proper gear and avalanche training. If your area is on the flatter side, cross-country or Nordic skiing not only improves your aerobic capacity, but also strengthens your arms and back muscles. Pretty useful strength to have in your back pocket for those techy downhills on the bike. Let’s just say when it comes to Olympic mountain bikers, there is no shortage of them spending their winter months skiing and weight training.

A gym routine can be an incredibly smart supplement to your cycling program, be it your own home gym or community gym. Biking is a fairly low impact sport (despite the few moments you may spend hitting the deck), that’s why resistance training can help you correct imbalances, build strength, and keep your bone density up. Using free weights such as dumbbells and kettlebells, or even using resistance bands can help you rehab any current nagging injuries and potentially prevent future injuries from happening at all. There is loads of variety when it comes to strength training workouts. You can find some of our favorite exercises demonstrated in the video on this page.

Low-impact activities are perfect for the easier days of your training schedule, but don’t forget you can always take complete rest too. Lounging around on the couch, check! In times of injury recovery, lower-impact sports can be the golden ticket to preserving fitness and getting you back to normal. Of course, there’s no replacement for an actual doctor’s visit or physical therapy treatments if you’ve suffered an acute or overuse injury. If it’s just a minor setback or you’re on the brink of overtraining, try swimming or aqua jogging in a pool, easy walks and hikes, or yoga and Pilates.

In order for your muscles to be healthy and function optimally, they need to be able to move and work throughout their entire range of motion. The demand for flexibility/mobility training is blowing up as weight lifting and cross fit gain mainstream popularity. These athletes are finding that tightness equals pain and limitation in their strength gains. This applies to cycling ability too. Painful knees, cranky backs, and pinched shoulders are completely optional. And, ahem, if you didn’t notice…your riding buds are beginning to assume their riding posture even when off the bike. We need to counter the forward-head, rounded-shoulder, flexed-spine seated position that riding can pull you into. Stretching and mobility drills that open your spine, hips, neck, and shoulders can extend your blissful riding days well past retirement. And that’s a very happy ending to our little story.