Chris Thornham - I’m a firm believer that anything worthwhile in life takes hard work, and becoming a good cyclist is no different. To become a better cyclist, you must be willing to make a daily commitment. After all, getting up in the wee hours of the morning for a long bike ride before work or repeating high-intensity intervals isn’t easy.
In addition to spending a lot of time on your bike, there are certain skills you can hone off of your bike that will help you improve as a cyclist. When you stay on top of your time, planning, preventative maintenance, health, rest, and safety, your body will repay you with excellent performance, and you will truly enjoy yourself!
8 Key Off-the-Bike Areas of Focus
To do your best, you have to be diligent both on and off of your bike. If you pay attention to the following eight key areas, you can achieve your goals and enhance your performance as a cyclist:
1. Manage your time
Everyone is busy with work, family, etc., and you can let all kinds of things get in the way of your cycling. At times, other things do have to come first, but managing your time will likely be one of your biggest allies when training to become a good cyclist. Build a training schedule, and incorporate your workouts into your daily routine. If you don’t make cycling a daily priority, it will easily get left behind.
2. Have a plan
Physiological adaptations can be optimized if you follow a well-though-out training plan. A plan will help ensure you are doing things like getting in enough base miles and preparing for high-intensity efforts.
Are you getting enough rest and recovery? Should you take a day off? The answers to questions like these are all crucial to optimizing your fitness. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, consider hiring a coach to help you stay on track.
3. Realize setbacks are part of the plan
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cyclist who hasn’t had an injury, been in a crash, or had work or family obligations get in the way of training. Life gets in the way, but don’t stress about the setbacks. Realize they are actually part of the plan, take them in stride, and get back on track as soon as possible.
4. Prevent what you can
Injuries are another big reason cyclists are forced to spend time off of the bike. Visit with a physical therapist or athletic trainer to build a preventative maintenance program. This will help you safeguard your body from some of the most common cycling injuries and keep you pedaling.
5. Keep your diet on point.
Your body is a very intricate machine. A proper nutrition program will ensure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Keeping it healthy is a key component to having it perform at its best. With a solid diet, you will be able to recover from the rigors of training and will also improve your physiological adaptations to the training load.
6. Get plenty of rest
Rest and recovery are two very important components to keeping you on your bike. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, and be sure to take easy days easy; they’re called “easy days” for a reason. Athletes who lack proper sleep and recovery are often sick, injured, or overextended — all of which can and will keep you off of your bike — bringing your fitness gains to a screeching halt.
7. Stay safe
Unfortunately, there are accidents and crashes outside of our control, but do what you can to keep yourself out of harm’s way. When training, don’t take unnecessary risks, such as descending at high speeds or taking risky lines in a group ride. Also, if you live near busy streets, consider driving your bike to a safe area to begin your ride.
8. Enjoy the journey
The physiological adaptations of the aerobic system take a long time to develop. It’s been said that it takes seven to 10 years of consistent training to truly reach your full potential, so don’t get into the sport and think you’re going to be ruling it in a few months. Instead, look at cycling as a sport you can enjoy for many years to come, and let the physiological adaptations occur at a natural rate. Once you build up your aerobic system with years of consistent training, the benefits will take you a long way.
You can excel at cycling and enjoy it by creating a plan, sticking to a training schedule, getting enough sleep, and staying safe. These suggestions require hard work and diligence, but they are a must if you want to progress as a cyclist. After all, keeping your body fine-tuned and healthy off of the bike are the keys to turning out top performances. Put the effort into what you do when you’re off of your bike, and your body will repay you every time you get back on.
Chris Thornham is a co-founder of FLO Cycling, which engineers aerodynamic cycling wheels. The company uses computational fluid dynamics software to develop its wheels and verifies its results in a wind tunnel. Less than three years after launching, the company has sold 15,000 wheels to customers in 60 countries. Chris enjoys learning, triathlon training, skiing, hiking with his dog, and spending time with family.