For many amateur athletes, the true test of their fitness levels is the triathlon. The event has become very popular in the past few years, both for regular competition or as a means of raising awareness of or funds for a particular charity.
The challenge involves swimming, cycling and running, and is recognised as a sport in its own right, boasting national and international governing bodies as well as carrying the status of an Olympic event.
All three disciplines of the triathlon represent fun and efficient methods to improve both fitness and general health; as such, cycling enthusiasts can use their newfound skills on two wheels to improve performance in other activities.
Of course, it is only natural that some cyclists are going to be reluctant to compromise their time in the saddle in order to accommodate running and swimming, or perhaps a gym-based session such as machines or free weights, or a high-energy or holistic class, but it should not be forgotten that these other activities will, in turn, help you to perform better on the bike.
Coherent Fitness Plan
So it is worth planning some cycling sessions as part of a coherent fitness plan. Start by looking at an existing or potential route. How long will it take you to complete the route? Are there stretches where you can safely pick up speed? And how about gradients – is the route relatively flat, or are there opportunities for building in some hill work?
The general aim is to build stamina and endurance, and improve cardiovascular efficiency, and while there is nothing wrong with covering the same route at the same speed as an exercise session in its own right, mixing up how far you cycle, how fast and at differing levels of intensity will bring dividends. It will also relieve the boredom born of repetition that can kick in.
So, for example, using the principal of interval training and inserting short, sharp injections of pace into your rides will boost your cardiovascular efficiency. Plan one or two 200m speed intervals into a regular two-mile course, increasing the number of these intervals to a maximum of four as your body adjusts to the new challenge. It should go without saying, of course, that these speed intervals should be executed in relatively remote spots free of both traffic and pedestrians.
Strength and Endurance
Hill work is another way of breaking up the monotony as well as building lower body strength and endurance. But remember to develop slowly, rather than immediately attempting the steepest gradients possible and at too great a speed.
The bike can also be incorporated into your regime as a warm-up or warm-down activity. So, for example, you could cycle to the swimming pool, or return home on two wheels, at a measured, steady pace that will allow your muscles to relax after the exertions in the water. The same is true of running, for example if you are a member of a nearby club.
Even if your running route begins and ends at your front gate, there is nothing to stop you physically and mentally winding down with a gentle one-mile ride around the local area while you reflect on your performance.
Whatever bike work you have planned on a particular day, always remember to complete your stretching exercises both before and after saddle time in order to avoid any unnecessary injury. And don’t forget that just because cycling has become an integral part of your fitness regime, it doesn’t mean it cannot resume its role as a pleasurable leisure activity on rest days.