Hot Weather Training for Cyclists

by Larry Coons, Cycling Instructor

Don’t be fooled by how easy it looks to race in the Tour de France – those cyclists are the best-conditioned endurance athletes in the world. In July 2012, for example, they raced 20 stages and 2,200 miles with high temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and relative humidity above 50 percent!

The competitive road cyclist's racing season is during summer, so it is essential that a competitive cyclist trains and adapts to intense exertions in very hot weather. However, only a select few have the desire and ability to race competitively  –the vast majority of cyclists are on their bikes for recreation, fitness and commuting.

So, during really hot periods, recreational cyclists should consider indoor training methods to both complement and balance outdoor cycling. Cycling engages large muscle groups in the legs, mainly the quadriceps. The good news: such concentrated use of large muscles allows for an intense cardiovascular workout (and calorie expenditure) over a short duration. The bad news: cycling emphasizes a limited and repetitive range of motion which limits mobility if balancing activities are not incorporated regularly.

Here are some indoor workouts I recommend that complement outdoor cycling:

:: Studio Cycling – As both a competitive cyclist and a cycling instructor, I can personally attest to the benefits of studio cycling to enhance the outdoor ride. Studio cycling workouts are fun, motivating and concentrated efforts inside of an hour that precisely target the cycling muscle groups. In addition to a safe, comfortable air-conditioned setting, studio cycling bikes have an added benefit of a fixed-belt drive train that really helps to groove an efficient pedal stroke.

:: Circuit Training – Circuit training can boost strength and power. Consider a circuit that uses isometrics such as box jumps, crunches, power bridges, planks, etc. Consult with a Certified Personal Trainer if you want to use weights as part of your training for cycling.

::  Cardio Machines – Yes, you can reap cycling benefits from using both a stair climber and a treadmill. Avoid running, but instead take full, controlled strides on either machine. On the treadmill, try changing the incline from 6-12 percent, and vary the speed from 3-4 m.p.h. to suit your goals.

::  Group Fitness Classes – Most group fitness classes can span the benefits of both complementary and balancing training for cyclists. For a complementary workout, look for classes that build core and lower body strength (Pilates and yoga).

Here are a few ideas to balance your muscle-specific cycling workouts indoors:

:: Swimming – The benefits of the crawl stroke include (to name a few): symmetry and balance for the upper body; torso elongation; breath control; and lowered core temperature in the summer.

::  Stretching – Absolutely essential for maintaining balance and health, the proper stretches will keep your body aligned and your joints working pain-free.

::  Group Fitness Classes – Have fun! Group fitness classes will provide a range of movements to balance your cycling efforts – work them into a regular schedule to maintain overall fitness and body symmetry.