Lifestyle Choices to Maximize Your Cycling Workouts

Lifestyle Choices to Maximize Your Cycling Workouts

To get the absolute most out of your cycling workouts, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle away from the bike. Here are three powerful ways to create a well-balanced, healthy life.

Eat Well to Be Well

While there are too many variables to make any sweeping claims about the best way for each and every individual to eat, there are a number of core guidelines proven to achieve excellent health results.

For starters, it’s crucial to pay attention to your calorie intake. And to do that, you need to determine exactly how many calories your body requires each day. The National Institutes of Health have created an easy-to-use online calorie calculator that takes into account sex, age, height, weight, and physical activity level to calculate your recommended daily caloric intake. 

From there, the simple rule is that to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume, to maintain weight you need to consume roughly the same amount of calories you burn, and to gain weight you need to consume more calories than you burn.

But remember, not all calories are created equal. The type of food you eat matters as much as—if not more than—how much you eat. Eating nutritious food is always important to maintain good health, and it’s especially important when you’re exercising, since the food you eat becomes the fuel your body uses to recover and repair itself following a workout.

To keep things simple, we’re going to focus on two factors that should be at the foundation of any healthy approach to eating.

The first is to avoid processed foods. As cycling and fitness expert Selene Yeager puts it: “You can’t properly fuel, mend, and build your hard-working muscles with lots of processed food.” Similarly, sports scientist Allen Lim, PhD, said: “The best [cycling] pros learn to cook with whole-food ingredients. When a rider takes the time and makes the effort to cook for themselves, they perform better because it improves their diet and eating habits.”

Along with avoiding processed foods, make plant-based foods the foundation of your diet. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition compared a number of health and mortality metrics against various dietary patterns. Researchers concluded that “a diet rich in plant foods (whole grains, a variety of fruit and vegetables, nuts, and legumes)” were consistently “associated with lower risk of death from [cardiovascular disease], cancer, or any cause.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to become vegan, but the data clearly shows that diets heavy in plant-based foods tend to produce better overall health.

The “Eat Well Plate,” designed by health officials in Canada, provides a very simple way to create a plant-based diet. This plan recommends dividing each meal into three categories: roughly half of your meal should be vegetables and fruits, a quarter of your meal should be whole grain foods, and the other quarter should be some sort of protein-rich food, ideally ones that come from plants more often than animal products.

As an added bonus, a plant-based diet is more ecologically sustainable than anything else, as animal agriculture is now one of the world’s biggest polluters and a key driver of climate change.

Sleep is Crucial

To see the biggest gains from your cycling workouts you need plenty of sleep. That works out well because it turns out that cycling has proven to be a powerful sleep aid.

Sleep is important because it’s when your body does most of its post-workout recovery and muscle repair. According to orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert Dr. David Geier, MD, healthy adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Athletes in training may require even more sleep. 

Fortunately, getting all that sleep won’t be that hard, as cycling encourages healthy sleep patterns. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that as people’s fitness levels decreased they had more difficulty sleeping. But when people exercised more—including activities like cycling—they started getting full, uninterrupted nights of restful sleep.

Sleep has implications much larger than helping you perform well as a cyclist. Poor sleep contributes to a number of negative health conditions, while good sleep patterns contribute to better overall health.

Exercise Your Entire Body

To maximize the health benefits of cycling, complement the time you spend in the saddle with upper body and core workouts. Here are a few workout plans to get you started:

1. UPPER BODY WORKOUT WITHOUT WEIGHTS

This workout is great because it requires no equipment whatsoever. To complete this workout, do the following cycle 4 times, giving yourself a 3-minute break between each cycle.

EXERCISE REPETITIONS  HOW TO DO IT
Plank 1 minute, or as long as you can Rest your weight on your toes and forearms, in a pose similar to push-up position. Contract your core and hold the pose.
Squats 10 Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, bend at the knees and hips until your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. Stand back up and repeat.
Lunges 10 per leg Keeping your back straight, step forward onto one foot then bend your knees and hips until your back knee is an inch above the ground. Straighten back up and repeat.
Push ups 10 With your weight on your toes and hands, keep your body parallel to the ground as you use your arms to lower down so that your chest is an inch or so above the ground. Straighten your arms back to the original position and repeat.
Leg raises 10 Lie flat on your back. Keeping your lower back pressed firmly against the ground and engaging your abs, lift your legs straight into the air then lower them so that your heels are an inch above the ground.
Mountain climbers 1 minute,
or as long as you can
Start in push up position. Then squeeze your abs as you lift your right knee up toward your right elbow. Return to your original position and do the same thing with your left leg. Repeat this pattern quickly, as if you were running uphill.
Pike push ups 10 Start in a modified push up position, in which your body makes an inverted V-shape. Shift your body weight forward over your hands, bend at your elbow until your head almost touches the floor, and push up again using your shoulders to do the hard work.


Based on a workout developed by Bar Brothers Groningen: “no-equipment-8-beginner-routine.” Bar Brothers Groningen.

2. UPPER BODY WORKOUT WITHOUT WEIGHTS

This routine is a 4-week plan designed for beginner to intermediate weightlifters:  

WEEK 1

MON TUES  WED THURS FRI SAT SUN

Dumbbell bench press 3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Lat pulldown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Rope triceps pressdown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Ab crunches
3 sets: 15 repetitions

Rest Day

Dumbbell bench press 3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Lat pulldown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Rope triceps pressdown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Ab crunches
3 sets: 15 repetitions

Rest Day

Dumbbell bench press 3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Lat pulldown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Rope triceps pressdown
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl
3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Ab crunches
3 sets: 15 repetitions

Rest Day Rest Day

 

Adapted from: Pena, Jimmy and Joe Wuebben.“The Complete 4-Week Beginner’s Workout Program.” Muscle & Fitness. 

WEEK 2

MON TUE WED THUR FRI SAT SUN

Barbell bench press 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Leg press 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Rest Day

Barbell bench press 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Leg press 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Rest Day

Rest Day

Lying-down leg curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Lying-down leg curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Dumbbell fly 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Dumbbell fly 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell bent-over row 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Seated leg curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell bent-over row 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Seated leg curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Standing calf raise 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Standing calf raise 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Lat pulldown 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Lat pulldown 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press 3 sets 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Seated calf raise 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Seated calf raise 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Dumbbell lateral raise 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Dumbbell lateral raise 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Lying-down triceps extension 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Lying-down triceps extension 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Rope triceps pressdown 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Rope triceps pressdown 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Ab crunches 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Ab crunches 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

 

WEEK 3

MON

TUES

WED

THURS

FRI

SAT

SUN

Incline barbell bench press 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell upright row 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Back squat 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Incline barbell bench press 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Barbell upright row 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Back squat 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Rest Day

Leg press 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Leg press 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Dumbbell fly 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Incline dumbbell biceps curl 4 sets: 8, 8, 10,12 repetitions

Dumbbell fly 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Incline dumbbell biceps curl 4 sets: 8, 8, 10,12 repetitions

Seated leg curl 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Seated leg curl 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Overhead dumbbell press 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Preacher curl with cable machine 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Preacher curl with cable machine 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Romanian deadlift 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Romanian deadlift 4 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Lying-down triceps extension 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Lying-down triceps extension 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Reverse ab crunch 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Reverse ab crunch 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Standing calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

Standing calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

Dumbbell kickback 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Dumbbell kickback 3 sets: 10, 12, 15 repetitions

Ab crunch 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Ab crunch 3 sets: 15-20 repetitions

Seated calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

Seated calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

 

WEEK 4

MON

TUES

WED

THURS

FRI

SAT

SUN

Incline barbell bench press 5 sets: 10 repetitions

Back squat 5 sets:
10 repetitions

Rest Day

Overhead dumbbell press 4 sets:
12 repetitions

Barbell bent-over row 5 sets:
12 repetitions

Rest Day

Rest Day

Leg press 5 sets: 8, 8, 10, 10, 12 repetitions

Dumbbell bench press 5 sets: 8, 8, 10, 10, 12 repetitions

Dumbbell lateral raise 3 sets:
10 repetitions

Lat pulldown 5 sets: 8, 8, 10, 12, 12 repetitions

Lying leg curl 3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Barbell biceps curl 3 sets:
10 repetitions

Dumbbell fly 5 sets: 8, 8, 10, 10, 12 repetitions

Seated calf raise 10 sets:
10 repetitions

Seated leg curl 3 sets: 8, 10, 12 repetitions

Rope tricep pressdown 4 sets: 10, 10, 12, 12 repetitions

Incline dumbbell biceps curl 3 sets:
10 repetitions

Reverse ab crunch 2 sets:
20 repetitions

Dumbbell kickback 3 sets:
10 repetitions

Ab crunch 3 sets:
20 repetitions

Ab crunch 2 sets:
20 repetitions

Lying-down triceps extension 3 sets:
10 repetitions

Standing calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

Seated calf raise 3 sets:
25 repetitions

 

3. CORE WORKOUTS FOR CYCLISTS

According to the cycling experts at Global Cycling Network, these are some of the best core workouts to complement regular cycling exercise.74 To get a full core workout, do the follow- ing cycle 3-4 times with a short break between each cycle:

EXERCISE REPETITIONS HOW TO DO IT
1. Squats  10 Stand with legs shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, bend at your knees and hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. As you squat down, raise your arms out in front of you.
2. Plank 1 minute, or as long as you can Start in a modified push up position, in which your weight is on your toes and your forearms. Keeping your body parallel to the ground, alternate lifting your legs into the air, one at a time.
3. Alternate Leg & Arm Raise 10 per side Start on all fours with your back parallel to the ground. Moving smoothly and steadily, while engaging your core, raise your right arm and left your left leg. Return to your original position and repeat with the opposite arm-leg pairing.
4. Glute Stretch 10 seconds per side Sit on the floor with your back flat and your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knee and place your foot across the opposite leg. Twist your core and hold your knee, gently pulling it in toward your chest.
5. Lunges 10 per leg Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, step forward with one leg and bend at the knees and hips until your back knee is an inch or so away from the ground. While bending your knee, lift your arms straight above your head. Return to your original position and repeat with your other leg.