The Most Enjoyable Cross-Training Workouts Are On A Bike
All the benefits of cross-training, plus an exhilarating experience to boot
Of all the simple pleasures, pedalling as fast as you can on a bike is up there with the best of them, but once you reach adulthood it’s not something most of us make time for. If you need an excuse to feel the wind on your face, skip one of your regular workouts and head out on a bike instead. Doing one of the routines below will help you build strength, speed or endurance.
The workouts are part of a campaign from bike maker Canyon, which makes a very particular type of ride – the “fitness bike”. Canyon offers two models, the Roadlite (from £679) and Pathlite (from £629), essentially the lightweight aluminium and carbon frames from Canyon’s road and mountain bike ranges respectively but with a more upright, stable riding position to make riding on roads feel safer.
Coach joined a ride around Richmond Park in London to try one of Canyon’s carbon-frame Roadlite models (£1,449), and after a few years riding an entry-level hybrid and heavy e-bikes, the difference was surprising. The Roadlite is delightfully fast, a combo that means sprinting up hills from a standing start is tough on both the legs and the lungs but fast enough to be fun.
Of course, you don’t need a high-grade bike to enjoy a day out in the saddle or to add some challenging sections. PT Kim Hartwell has worked with Canyon to create the three sessions below. They’re designed to help runners cross-train, but we think they’re just as useful for gym-goers.
“Cycling is a great way for runners to cross-train, because it is non-impact and has several aerobic benefits,” says Hartwell. “Because there is less impact with cycling than running, you will recover more quickly from the sessions.
“Cycling can benefit runners for both recovery and training. It aids recovery by flushing the legs out: a super-easy spin has no impact, and allows the blood to circulate around the muscles, providing more oxygen to them and aiding the recovery phase. At the opposite end of the spectrum, cycling can be great for high-end aerobic training if you do intervals. You also can maintain your fitness by riding if you are injured.”
1. Build strength with hill reps in a high gear
Warm up for ten to 15 minutes, finishing at the bottom of a big hill. Start climbing at a pace that, on a one to ten rate of perceived exertion scale, puts you at an eight or nine. Your breathing should be somewhere between “hard and even” and “laboured and gasping”. This is your baseline. When you’re ready push as hard as you can for ten to 20 pedal strokes (about ten to 20 seconds). Return to your baseline to recover as best you can for ten to 20 seconds. Repeat four more times. Recover for ten minutes and repeat the intervals if you wish, before warming down.
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2. Build speed with short intense efforts
Spiking your heart rate and working on turning the pedals quickly will help you to get quicker.
Warm up for ten to 15 minutes. Then sprint out of the saddle for one minute followed by a two-minute recovery phase of easy riding. Repeat ten times. Warm down for ten to 15 minutes.
3. Build endurance by going further for longer
There is a specific endurance training zone, about 68% to 75% of your maximum heart rate, but 30 minutes in this zone won’t offer any benefit. Low-intensity rides need to be long enough to have any impact because intensity and time are closely correlated. If you normally ride for an hour, then do a 2½-hour ride in your endurance zone, which will be enough time to allow you to improve your endurance.
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Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.