Why Bicyclists Gotta Cross-Train

Cycling hurts. Anyone who’s ridden a bike for thirty minutes or longer knows it’s true: Hands, neck, shoulders, quads. Your butt, especially, takes a beating. But after a painful “break-in” period, your body adapts to life on a bike. Callouses build up, muscles grow stronger, and soon you’re riding for hours a day, pain free.

Then you’re in the clear, right? You can just pedal off into the sunset, knowing you’re on your way to good health!

Wrong.

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Cross-training means practicing a sport or skill other than bicycling, in order to balance your body's musculature.

There’s this pesky lil’ thing called “cross-training,” and it’s important. Cross-training means practicing a sport or skill other than bicycling, in order to balance your body's musculature. For example, many of the women I've interviewed do yoga or lift weights as their cross-training.  It’s not always easy to do, especially on a bike tour when you’re already exhausted from a day’s ride and lack equipment. But cross-training is essential to preventing injuries, and shouldn’t be ignored.

I tried to ignore it. I really did. But my dearest Alex just got his Personal Trainer certification through NASM (Congratulations, baby!), and he's learned things that can't be unlearned. After asking me to do a couple squats, he looked shocked. "What?" I asked, thinking that I'd performed brilliantly. I'd been doing squats for many years, and therefore must be good at them.

"You've got Lower Cross Syndrome," he announced. "I can't believe it." He explained to me that Lower Cross Syndrome is the result of an overactive low back and underactive (read: weak) abdominals and gluts. Basically, I was walking around sticking out my butt like a duckling, letting my abs relax in front of me. I was surprised, but as soon as Alex explained it, I knew he was right. No wonder I'd injured my lower back last week. It needed some support. 

“It’s very common in cyclists," Alex added. "You get strong quads from biking, but your gluts and abs are underutilized." 

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You look good in a swimsuit, but why does your lower back keep twinging? Because your body is out of balance

That’s right, my friends. You may ride your bike to work every day, like me, and have a physically-demanding job, like me, and do yoga every night before bed, like me, but you are not healthy. You look good in a swimsuit, but why does your lower back keep twinging? Because your body is out of balance, and your poor lower back is trying so hard to compensate that it’s straining itself. Get those abs and gluts to start helping out, okay?

Consider getting a personal trainer. They're awfully nice people to have around. Although, you know, I'm rather biased in that department. If you don't want the help of a professional, just make sure you're doing a solid ab workout three times a week. Once you start engaging and stimulating your core, the rest will become easier. And make sure you're doing your squats properly: You'll feel real silly when you get caught sticking out your butt like a duckling.

Here's an article from the Canadian Cycling Magazine to get you started: "5 Exercises to Correct Lower Cross Syndrome in Cyclists."

PS: I didn't mean to choose Canadian Cycling Magazine. It's the first article that popped up in Google, and I didn't want to reveal any kind of prejudice towards our Northern Brethren.

Tailwinds!