A while back it seemed that cyclists were allergic to gyms and only used them during the pre-season to lift some weights and do strength training. Then, they would forget about the gym for the rest of the year, not using it even for spinning, a fitness activity so similar to cycling.
Luckily, this has changed and several studies have shown that going to the gym regularly to do strength training or other activities such as Yoga, Pilates or Body Pump, is good for our overall fitness, helps avoid injuries, corrects muscle imbalances, breaks the routine and improves our social life.
So what can a cyclist do at the gym? The answer is: everything. From lifting weights to Zumba, HIIT workout, functional training such as CrossFit, etc. Pretty much every activity at the gym can help you in one way or another to improve your cycling performance. Let's take a look at the benefits of some of them:
Spinning or indoor cycling classes are available at almost all gyms in the world and are one of the most popular activities. These group classes are accompanied by motivating music and usually last about 45 minutes. It's a high-intensity exercise with frequent changes of pace, making it a great interval workout for cyclists.
If you've never tried a spinning class don't wait any longer. They are fun, the group atmosphere is great and the instructor gives you that extra motivation to push yourself and to let out every last drop of sweat. You should hydrate well, bring a towel, your bib shorts and a comfortable fitness T-shirt that is highly breathable and wicks away the sweat.
If you are tired of the same strength exercises with weights for cyclists, this group activity will give you a new boost of motivation, working all the muscle groups to the beat of the music. You will exercise previously trained muscles because Body Pump includes squats, lunges and deadlifts. However, you will do it differently because the weights are lighter and the movements are more dynamic. Besides, it also involves exercises for your arms, shoulders and core, allowing you to train the whole body.
If you are a cyclist and have never lifted weights before, don't be afraid to sign up for a Body Pump activity because you choose the weight and the instructor guides you and helps you get started with your first class. Your bones will feel the difference.
Cyclists aren’t night owls. If we want to go cycling early in the morning, we have to go to bed early. Right now I can't even remember the last time I was out partying, dancing and drinking something stronger than a beer. That's why a few Zumba classes a month are perfect for a good dose of partying, dancing and laughter, especially if you like Latin rhythms, although during Zumba classes you will hear all kinds of music.
Zumba is an aerobic activity that will help you avoid stiffness in the whole body, especially in the hips. It also improves coordination and helps relieve stress and reduce body tension.
Yoga and Pilates
The vast majority of gyms already include yoga or pilates in their programs. Although these activities are different, both will help you get to know your body in depth through a combination of concentration, breathing and postures. Yoga and Pilates will improve your flexibility, joint mobility and balance - three extremely useful benefits for cyclists.
Just as with Zumba, but in a more relaxed way, yoga and Pilates are excellent for clearing the mind, relieving stress and anxiety, taking time to connect with our inner selves and improving our proprioception (also known as kinaesthesia, the sense of self-movement and body position).
From being calm and balanced, let’s move on to the opposite: High Intensity Interval Training. This activity sets your heart beat at high speed by alternating very intense, short exercises where you push yourself to the limit, with slightly longer moments of rest (active or inactive). The workout lasts around 10-15 minutes. Seems too short for you? Once you try a HIIT class, let me know how it goes.
This type of training is done using our body weight alone or with a kettlebell to increase its difficulty. There are endless combinations of exercises such as planks, squats, jumping jacks, push-ups or burpees. We get to boost our metabolism, train all muscle groups and improve our strength and endurance - extra useful in short, intense cycling efforts.
Functional training and CrossFit
So far we have been talking about activities or workout routines that can be beneficial to our cycling performance. And what if we needed something to help us improve each and every body movement and activity on a daily basis? Functional training is the answer. Maybe it doesn't ring a bell, but if I say the name: CrossFit, I'm sure you’ll know what I mean right away. More and more gyms include this type of workout in their program, but you can also go to a CrossFit box near you and see for yourself.
CrossFit is a high-intensity functional workout involving disciplines such as weightlifting, athletics and gymnastics. You will be running, doing squats, carrying a med ball or hitting a tire with a sledgehammer in no time. Unlike other weight exercises, it develops real strength, which you can then use on the bike or in your day to day life. If you are a cyclist you may be afraid that lifting weights will make you too heavily built, but if you practice CrossFit once or twice a week to strengthen all the muscle groups, there's no reason to worry.
These are just some examples of many activities a cyclist can do at the gym. Don’t run straight to the dumbbell area or fancy workout machines, check with your gym to see what classes they offer and give them a try. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that all we need is a fitness T-shirt, sweatpants plus some imagination, and we can do most of these activities at home.