It’s winter time and I’m telling you to get off your butt. I’m not calling you lazy or to tell you to stop sitting on the couch. In fact, it’s important to take some time off and rest the body. A rest period will allow the body to reset both mentally and physically. This doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising but by giving a pause to your usual sport you can make yourself better at your specific sport.

Professional cyclists will take a couple weeks off of the bike but if you’re not pro taking a longer break is not out of the question. Cycling is a non-impact sport where you sit in the saddle and pedal circles day in and day out. Over time you become a better cyclist but the muscles that are not used in cycling do become weaker. The non-impact nature of cycling can weaken bone density and the stabilizing muscles that are around the knees, ankles, and hips gradually deteriorate. In addition, cycling doesn’t add much too any upper body strength. What ends up happening is an out of balance body where the stronger muscles are dominating the weaker muscles instead of all of them working together. This process of just cycling year in and year out ultimately will lead to injuries. This can turn into the worst-case scenario when you’re forced off the bike during the times that you need to be training the most.

So, get off your butt. Invest some time to exercises where you don’t sit in a saddle. Instead, find a fitness regime that forces you to jump, lift, run, skate, etc. It’s the time of year where you need to add some sports that shock the system and provide benefits that you can’t receive from cycling. If you don’t normally combine any off cycling activities you will be sore when you first start. Take it slow and give it a couple of weeks for the bones and muscles and tendons to adjust to the new workouts. When I was racing my off season still contained cycling but it also involved many different sports. When I was on the 7-11 team I used to play roller blade hockey almost every night with some of my teammates. When I was on Motorola the winter was spent playing basketball, when I was on U.S Postal I would incorporate running into the offseason workouts. These activities would all be part of my training which also included working out in the gym with weights. Yes, it was fun and all of the sports were specific in that they would help to balance the body by strengthening the entire body.

By getting off the saddle you’ll be able to discover some new sports that you enjoy, perhaps some that you don’t enjoy (like running for me), and give yourself a mental break from the daily training on the bike. It doesn’t matter if you live someplace where it’s sunny and warm 365 days a year which would allow you to ride all year long. If you want to stay injury free and improve you have to incorporate some off bike activities. This will allow the body to reap the benefits of becoming stronger overall and this will translate into a better cycling season.