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What Are Good Cross-Training Activities During The Outdoor Cycling Season?

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the yearQ: What Are Good Cross-Training Activities During The Outdoor Cycling Season?

A: Springtime brings us out of our basements and gyms to ride outside again—to take advantage of warmer weather and different fitness options. We all know how important it is to get in our base miles before ramping up to more intense workouts. I’m often asked, “What else can I do to keep fit and stay in shape for cycling?”


Because cycling is a quad- and glute-dominant sport, rollerblading is a great cross-training activity that can easily be done without too much preparation and organization.

Many studies show that rollerblading is comparable to running or cycling in terms of its aerobic/anaerobic benefits and caloric expenditure. Thirty minutes of skating on roller blades at a steady comfortable pace (an average heart rate of 148bpm) will burn 285 calories — similar to an aerobic distance ride on the bike (distance cycling can burn up to 360 calories in 30 minutes). Rollerblading can also be done more intensely in the form of intervals. It uses all of the elements of bike training such as:

  • Long-distance aerobic workouts
  • Threshold and tempo training sessions
  • Intervals and power workouts, as well as hill repeat training workouts

Another benefit of rollerblading is it’s a low joint-impact activity, making it a more accessible sport than running, which can be hard on the hips, knees, back, feet and ankles. A recent study at the University of Massachusetts showed rollerblading has 50% less impact on the joints than running. Because it also requires good balance, rollerblading strengthens the smaller stabilizing muscles in the body and engages core muscles, making it a good cross-training activity for cyclists.

Below are examples of workouts for each element of bike training that you can do on your rollerblades.

  1. Longdistance aerobic training – Choose a route that isn’t too hilly.

  • 10–15 minutes easy pace to warm up
  • Depending on your level of fitness you can blade continuously at a low to moderate pace for 60 to 120 minutes at 60–70% of maximum heart rate (MHR)
  • Finish with 5–10 minutes easy

  1. Tempo pace session –The route for this type of workout should also be relatively flat.

  • 10–15 minutes easy pace to warm up
  • Again, depending on fitness level and ability, 15–45 minutes at moderate to hard pace effort level at 70–80% of maximum heart rate (MHR).
  • Finish with 10 minutes easy

  1. Intervals –The route for this can be hilly for a harder session or flat for a less challenging session.

  • 15 minutes easy pace to warm up
  • 5–10x 2 minutes high intensity at 80–90% of MHR – 2 minutes easy pace to recover
  • Finish with 10 minutes easy

  1. Hill Repeats – Any length of hill and gradient you are comfortable with.

  • 10–15 minutes easy to warm up
  • 5–10 hard efforts up the hill
  • Easy pace down the hill to recover
  • Finish with 10–15 minutes easy

  1. Recovery or easy off day – Flat

  • 30–60 minutes easy pace – 50–60% MHR


Yoga/core conditioning classes:

Because cycling requires strong core muscles, yoga and core training classes are also good cross-training activities. They don’t require the same endurance as cycling, but they develop the strong core muscles necessary to dodge the back and neck pain you can get on the bike after long bouts of holding the same position while in the saddle. Yoga and core conditioning classes also develop more balanced body strength, which helps decrease injuries due to one side of the body being stronger than the other.

Elliptical Trainers:

This machine can be found in almost all gyms. Many people have one at home. The elliptical trainer is a non-impact activity that uses muscles similar to the ones you use when cycling. Elliptical trainers are easy to use, and have a smooth and rhythmic motion. Like the bike, ellipticals get harder when you increase the level of resistance. And, like rollerblading, the elliptical trainer can also be used to perform high-intensity workouts, such as interval training, and threshold and tempo workouts. However, the boredom threshold is low, so aim for 30–60 minute interval sessions and steady-state–high-intensity tempo-type workouts. Below are two elliptical workouts. 

  1. Intervals – Manual mode

  • 10 minutes warm-up at an easy pace, at a low resistance
  • 10 x 1 minute hard intensity – 80% MHR  (5–6 levels of resistance higher than the warm-up)
  • 2 minutes easy; recover in between
  • 10 minutes easy, to cool down

  1. Tempo – Manual mode

  • 10 minutes warm-up at an easy pace, at a low resistance
  • Select a level of resistance on the elliptical that is 3–4 levels higher than the warm-up and hold a steady but challenging pace for 30 minutes
  • 10 minutes easy, to cool down

As you can see, there are a number of cross-training activities you can do during the cycling season. As well as benefiting your cycling, these different fitness options can come in handy when you’re travelling and don’t have access to a bicycle.

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, visit Diane’s website or contact her at

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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