Get off your bike for off season cardio training!

While I love riding my bike, there is a time when I think you should get off of it – I’m a big fan of cross training for cardio in the off season. I think that too many riders get hung up on being on a bike, any bike, and as a result end up exposing themselves to too many overuse injuries.

For example, spin classes become a popular thing for mountain bikers in the off season. They are indoors, you’re on a “bike” and you have someone leading you through a workout…what’s not to love?

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of spin classes. They are like aerobics classes where you are ultimately limited by doing a slightly different version of the same 45 minute workout every time. There is little in the way of progressive overload or ways to progress the workout – eventually you just stagnate and are literally spinning your wheels while getting nothing in return.

I encourage people to get off the bike for a while and do bodyweight interval workouts. By using bodyweight based exercises you can advance the exercises by adding some external resistance like a dumbbell and you can change work to rest ratios to keep progressing the workouts and seeing results.

Plus, you get out of the repetitive, limited range of motion we use on our bikes and expose the body to different movements and challenges. This will help you avoid overuse injuries to the knees and low back while also providing a more challenging cardio workout – doing movements you are not used to will create a bigger cardio demand than simply doing a movement your body is extremely familiar with.

Last week I busted out a special little circuit I called The Nightmare Before Christmas and I think you’ll find it a fun way to get off the bike while developing some serious cardio:

Exercise #1: Jump Rope

Exercise #2: Burpees

Exercise #3: Mountain Climbers

Exercise #4: Reverse Lunges

Go for 45 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds while you switch stations. Go through this circuit 3 times, rest 3 minutes and then do it again…if you can.

You can make it harder by holding dumbbells for your burpees (weighted burpees are killer!) and for the reverse lunges.

So, next time your itching to get some cardio in skip the spin class and try this cardio circuit out – I’m sure you’ll find it to be far more challenging than you expect and it will give you better overall results in less time.

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  1. Joe says:

    Looks like fun. Quick question though.. Any specific reason for choosing the 45sec/ 15 sec rest vs something like tabata intervals (20sec /10 sec ) with more sets ?

    Reply • December 30 at 8:26 am
  2. Brooce says:

    Do you think that few minutes of jumping through the jumping rope (? don’t actually know how to name this action properly) will be a good warm-up ?

    Reply • December 30 at 11:36 am
  3. Jayde says:

    Dude! What are “mountain climbers”? I mean, i know some mountain climbers here in Utah but i really don’t think you want me out there climbing those snow covered beauties. Could you please help me with my ignorance?

    Reply • December 30 at 11:45 am
  4. Jade Jenny says:

    James I know your recommended it to me last winter, and I picked one up for my house, the C2 rower rocks. That thing has become a death machine for me. Love it.

    Reply • December 30 at 12:32 pm
  5. jeff says:

    What is a mountain climber? thanks

    Reply • December 31 at 7:04 am
  6. bikejames says:

    @ Joe – Intervals are just like any other type of training in that you want to vary what you do. Different work and rest periods challenge the body in different ways and keep it adapting.

    And while I like Tabatas, they tend to get overplayed and most people don’t do them hard enough to get the benefits. Imagine that you are on a railroad bridge and your halfway across. All of a sudden you hear a train coming behind you – it is a long bridge and you’re not sure you can make it to the other side before the train hits you.

    You know how hard you would run then? That is how hard every interval during Tabatas have to be to get the real benefits. Few people hit that intensity mark and so I like to use longer intervals to get some volume in to make up for it.

    Reply • December 31 at 7:32 am
  7. bikejames says:

    @ Jade – Yeah, rowers rule. I guess I lied a bit about the circuit – the real circuit I used was the rower, ropes, burpees and mountain climbers. Since most people don’t have rowers or ropes I modified it to fit what they would have but using the rower for intervals is freakin’ awesome.

    Reply • December 31 at 7:34 am
  8. bikejames says:

    @ Jeff & Jayde – Get into a push up position and then bring one knee towards your chest. Bring that leg back to the start position and then bring the other knee up towards your chest. Alternate bringing your knees towards your chest while maintaining a strong, straight torso. You can do this sequence rather quickly once you get it down.

    Reply • December 31 at 7:36 am
  9. Simon says:

    A great alternative to ropes is what I think you call Iron Mans, from your bodyweight workouts. I assume you’re using the same kind of anterior muscles as you would be with ropes. I’ve been using them in circuits I do. The only problem is they’re so killer. I’m not sure I could do them for 45″.

    Reply • December 31 at 1:39 pm
  10. The Nightmare on New Years:

    The above program with jumping jacks instead of jump rope.

    The time went by really quickly, and I felt like I was subjecting my body to some high-quality brutality. Perfect for that steep, technical climb.

    Go James!

    Reply • January 2 at 11:00 am
  11. Whats a mountian bike climber?

    Reply • January 16 at 4:56 pm
  12. Brad says:

    A mountain climber as far as I know is where you place your palms on the ground and alternate bringing your left knee then your right knee up to your chest. So when your bringing your right knee up your shooting your right leg out straight behind you and vice versa. It’s like a stationary run but your palms are on the ground.

    Reply • February 5 at 6:09 pm
  13. Bryan says:

    I think it was asked above but not answered. What is an Iron Man?

    Reply • March 21 at 7:25 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      From a push ups position come down onto one elbow and then the other. Then push back up to the starting position one hand at a time. It is also called a plank walk up.

      Reply • March 21 at 7:28 am

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