Biking? But we’re runners! Yes we are. But lot’s of runners are on that slippery slope to the dark side (also known as Triathlon!) and many also indulge in adventure races that mix several different disciplines. Why they can’t stick to one, simple and pure sport is beyond me… However even if you are mainly a runner there are advantages to cross training on the bike. Niall O’Crualaoich gives us the run down (or should that be the spin down?)
If you’re an occasional cyclist or even a wimpy racer, you may have locked your bike in a cold dark place over the winter. And why not? This winter has had it all in terms of bad weather with wind, rain and ice. In some places it all arrived on the same day along with some flooding. But I digress, so how are we to take advantage of the spring thaw this year? Thanks to the bike to work scheme and to some generous employers who have added bike racks and showers (if you’re really lucky) to their list of assets on site. This opens the way for you to use your daily commute for more than ‘junk’ mileage and de-stressing.
First make sure your bike is roadworthy and that you’re well lit up. I personally wear high Vis colours even in the daytime. And don’t forget your backpack needs to be visible as well. It is no use wearing day glow colours if it is hidden by a big black rucksack. Even in spring we get overcast days and when it rains it might as well be night. I am presuming here, that we all know the rules of the road. If not, then you should either educate yourself or get off the road. But that is a discussion for another day.
Back on track! So how are we going to spice up that daily bike ride to work? First of all you can vary your route. Unless you live very close to work (and I mean VERY), you will always have options. A very good friend of mine thinks nothing of driving his wife to work on the opposite end of the city before ditching the car and cycling across town to work. Smart or what? Think of the quality time he has with his wife, not to mention the brownie points that he is banking for when he misses Sunday lunch because he is attending a race or two.
The second change will only work if you’re cycling in an urban area. Treat each red traffic light as a start line and accelerate hard as the lights change. Be mindful of other road users but race hard to the next set of lights.
For those of you with long, uninterrupted stretches of road, try downshifting your gears till your cadence or RPM is around 120 per minute. This means 120 full revolutions of a pedal in a minute. Count out your RPM for 15 seconds and multiply by four. This works your aerobic system and helps you works on your leg turnover speed. This is particularly useful if you’re after a long run or ride the day before. It will increase blood flow to the legs without straining them with the resistance of cycling or the impact of running.
The opposite of this is to up shift and have your RPM at 40-60 per minute. This helps build strength as long as you’re pushing against the resistance. It is very similar to a hill workout. Especially if your route is lacking in undulation. Try and drop your heels on the upstroke and point your toes on the down stroke to work on your cycling form. Also remain in the saddle, we are trying to work the legs and if you stand up on the pedals the temptation is to drive the stroke with your bodyweight. Remember it is a resistance session, it is not meant to be easy.
My favourite session, and it is the bain of my athletes, is the anaerobic fitness session. For this you will need a stopwatch. Mount it on the handlebars so you don’t destabilise yourself while cycling. The plan is to do short bursts of sprints. Most athletes start at 15-20 seconds a sprint and repeat the durations a number of times. Start with three times 15 seconds and build up in terms of time and frequency. I am currently managing one minute by 5 times. Your speed on the first repetition should match the speed on the last. If you find the speed dropping off, then stop. That is enough repeats for that session. You have to be able to sustain the workload otherwise you run the risk of it no longer being anaerobic.
Last of all is the single leg efficiency drill. This works best with clip in bike shoes. Disengage one foot and rest it somewhere safe and out of the way. Then proceed to cycle with the other leg, the clipped in foot, in a smooth manner. This drill forces you to pull on the up stroke and it should help you gain maximum stroke efficiency. Start gently and try each side for 20 seconds, building to a minute.
One of the newest drills around at the moment is the pothole slalom. This is where you weave between the potholes and gain points for not landing on your backside. In certain parts of the country at the moment it is akin to downhill slalom skiing with an avalanche coming down behind you. But on a serious note, use the potholes to practice your bike handling skills and if you are travelling in a pack, then call the ‘hole’ for the poor sap hanging on your rear wheel. I hope some of these drills can be of benefit to you, but more importantly stay safe out there on the roads, and remember the road belongs to cyclists