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Off the Trainer & Onto the Trails

Cycling is my main sport, I put time and energy into training for bike racing year-round. However, I live in Duluth and we have a long stretch of winter and it’s hard to ride all year round. I am sure that I am not alone in this. I get that there are a lot of reasons to ride the trainer but in my experience, there are also a lot of reasons to change it up with the seasons and find more ways to enjoy this beautiful city we live in. First thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds is fat biking, and that absolutely has its merits. Personally, I prefer to ride on dirt and I use winter as an opportunity to really change it up and get some cross-training in! 

The biggest benefit that I find with adding cross training is the mental benefits. After a long season of training and racing, it is nice to take a break (or just a baby step back) from the bike and move my body in other ways. My favorite cross training is cross country skiing. Getting fresh air is so good for my mental health and without skiing I’d really miss playing out in the woods. I find that it also helps my mental health to ski more in the winter because I am not very good at it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform in cycling, but with skiing my entire focus is just on self improvement and having fun. Some days I practice technique and get to enjoy making those gains and other days I just enjoy being outside or skiing with friends. Either way – it’s a great workout! 

Cycling is such a repetitive motion and your riding can benefit immensely from increasing core, upper body and back strength. It can improve stability and efficiency on the bike. Riding bikes really doesn’t help so much with those specific groups – the good news is – cross country skiing is huge for this!  There are even muscles in your legs that aren’t worked much on a bike, just changing the activity can get into some of those neglected muscles and make you a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. 

Another skill that can help improve your riding and bike handling is balance. Once again, Nordic skiing is the perfect activity for that. I only know how to skate ski (so far) and it is a lot of weight transfer and finding balance on one leg at a time. This directly applies to cycling and can help increase body awareness and stability. 

I do still ride the trainer a decent amount in the winter because my main focus is racing mountain bikes and it is so important to my training to still have that specificity, but I replace a lot of endurance work, longer days and even some less specific interval days out on the snow! I have found that this combination of training leaves me feeling more refreshed and ready to race in the Spring!