Cross Training is a widely popular and highly used training technique by a majority of athletes. It is the combination of several forms of exercise to help the individual train outside their specific sport or main exercise. This is beneficial because it forces the person to train their body to adapt to different forms of exercise. Which in turn can help the individual achieve higher levels of fitness and that can aide in their overall performance. For example, a runner could just stay inside their field of sport and still be in tremendous shape. However, if they incorporate different workouts such as cycling, weightlifting or swimming it can build towards greater strength and endurance.
There are several different types of cross training methods. The three most common you see in combination however, are running, swimming, and cycling. This article focuses on cycling and its benefits in relevance to cross training, as well as giving a brief history behind the sport and bicycle itself.
A Brief History of Cycling
The history behind the bicycle is actually a little bit of a mystery. Even though they were made popular sometime during the 19th century, some historians argue that the idea for the bicycle can be dated back as early as 1493. Gian Giacomo Caporotti, who was a student of Leonardo da Vinci, made a sketch of a contraption that resembled that of a bicycle. However, some historians are skeptical of the authenticity of the sketch.
It wasn’t until 1817 that the very first verified bicycle like contraption appeared. Invented by Baron von Drais, The Walking Machine was a full wood frame with two same-size-in-wheels. This device worked by straddling it, like you do a bicycle, and pushing your feet against the ground. This created a gliding effect that helped propel the individual at a much swifter speed than walking.
The next appearance of a bicycle-like contraption was in 1865 and it was the first model to have pedals. However unlike today’s bicycles, the pedals on this device were applied directly to the front wheel. This particular model was more commonly known as the boneshaker because the frame was entirely made of wood but it had metal wheels so it made riding along the cobblestone roads of the day very uncomfortable.
Five years later history saw the invention of the High Wheel Bicycle. This bicycle had a giant front wheel and a little back wheel. While it seemed good in theory, this model was prone to crashes because of the instability that was caused by the rider being seated so high above the center of gravity. In fact, it was during this time that the term “taking a header” came into being.
The evolution of bicycles also saw the High Wheel Tricycles, the High Wheel Safety, the Hard-Tired Safety, the Pnuematic Tired Safety (which actual revolutionized tires on bicycles), the Kid’s Bike, and of course what we now have today.
Cycling as a sport didn’t come into play until 1868. The very first bicycle race was held near Paris, France on May 31st. It was a 1,200-meter race that was between the fountains and Saint-Cloud Park. The winner of this race was 18-year-old James Moore. The first recorded bicycle race in the United States was held on May 24, 1878 in Boston. Which interestingly enough was two years after the start of baseball and 13 years before the invention of basketball. Almost all the races were help on tracks and by 1890 there were an estimated 100 tracks around the country. The first time a bicycle race was held in the Olympic games was 1896 and since then the sport of cycling has flourished. It has now become a widely popular sport and form of exercise worldwide. Cycling is one of the most common forms of exercise as well as one of the most popular forms of transportation next to motor vehicles.
Benefits of Cycling
Bicycles around the world number about one billion and are regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation. Besides the environmental benefits to bicycles, which are many. The health benefits are also numerous.
First of all, it’s one of the easiest forms of exercise. Jumping on a bike and riding off is as easy as one, two, three. It can be done almost anytime of the year and at little monetary expense to the rider. It requires a low skill level so as long as you can balance on a bike and pedal you’re pretty much guaranteed at least a little bit of a workout.
Secondly, cycling builds strength and increases muscle tone. While cycling is a low impact activity, you still can build a significant amount of lower body strength. Unless done at high intensity, it will take time to see progress, but if done regularly you will begin to see improvement in the muscle tone of your legs, thighs, hips, and butt.
Along with building strength and muscle tone, you will also build stamina. Cycling helps build endurance in not only your muscles, but your lungs as well. Overtime, your stamina will increase and your endurance will improve tremendously.
Cycling can also increase your cardiovascular health. Cycling helps get your heart rate up and helps it pound in a steady manner. Since cycling uses the largest muscles groups, which are the legs, it raises your heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness. Studies have also shown that cycling can increase your cardiovascular fitness by 7%.
Weight loss can also occur when cycling regularly. According to studies you can burn up to 300 calories per hour when cycling at a moderate speed. And if you cycle for 30 minutes everyday you could burn up to, if not more than, 11 pounds of fat per year. And since cycling is a muscle builder it will also spike up your metabolism, which will last several hours after your ride.
There are countless other reasons why cycling is beneficial to your health. Such as improved coordination and a stress reducer. Regardless of why you choose to cycle though, it is a healthy lifestyle choice. Thousands of people across the globe partake in cycling to improve their overall health everyday.
Cycling and Cross Training
Aside from cycling being beneficial to your health, it is also a very effective form of cross training. Especially for runners and swimmers. In fact, running, swimming, and cycling are the most popular combination of cross training. Runners are more geared towards cycling though because it allows them to give their joints and bones a break. Cycling is a very low impact activity it carries virtually zero injury risk factor.
There are three different forms of cycling when considering using it in cross training. The first is gym cycling. Gym cycling or spinning is a much more controlled form of cycling. You can better control your heart rate, speed, and incline when on a stationary bike. While this is definitely beneficial, it can also be very boring. There isn’t a lot of variety in your scenery and it can quickly become mundane.
The second form of cycling is road cycling. This is by far the more popular choice for several reasons. One is because it involves a variety of atmospherics. You can fly down hills, coast when you want, and, if you’re in the mood, hit hills hard and fast. You do have to take into consideration that even though the change in scenery is refreshing, the road does dictate how your workout will go and how it will affect your heart rate. Plus, there are risks involved. Unlike the stationary bike where it’s virtually injury free, road cycling does possess a few risk factors. First, the danger of an accident is very real. So just make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings. Secondly, it does have to potential to involve more stress when you bring in traffic, pedestrians, cars, and other distractions.
The third and final form of cycling in cross training is mountain biking. This one is not as popular because it does carry a higher risk of getting injured. However, if you’re up for a little adventure and can afford an occasional injury or two, mountain biking can be a fun way to get in a great workout.
Cycling In Conclusion
Despite which type of cycling you choose for cross training, bicycling is a fantastic form of exercise that will help keep your heart healthy and your joints happy. It has been around for a very long time and it only continues to grow in popularity. Many clubs and organizations have been formed solely around the idea of cycling for better health. So if you’re looking to try something new to mix up your workout routine or you’re a beginner who’s trying to find a good start up exercise, cycling is a great way to start in a new direction of health and wellness.