Keep Things Interesting: Ciele X 7mesh on the Benefits of Cross-Training

We all live for our sports. As runners, we run; as cyclists, we cycle. To us, it’s more than sport, it’s our identity and way of being in the world.

Word by: Daisy Maddison

Images by: Felix Burke & Mack Rankin

We all live for our sports. As runners, we run; as cyclists, we cycle. To us, it’s more than sport, it’s our identity and way of being in the world. However, repeating the same movements season after season can be grueling for our bodies and minds. Cross-training offers us a tool for keeping things interesting while developing better overall fitness to aid and maintain a competitive edge in our primary sport.

For cycling, a little bit of cross-training goes a long way, offering many benefits to cyclists of all levels and disciplines. 7mesh athletes Karsten Madsen and Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette, based in Pemberton and Quebec City respectively, strongly believe in utilizing cross-training as a way to become better, more well-rounded athletes.

7mesh and Ciele’s collaboration is focused on the positive nature of cross-training for our bodies, but also on our impact on the planet. Using the same product for multiple uses lightens our footprint and offers a more sustainable way to enjoy our sports. Enjoying a new sport shouldn’t require an entirely new wardrobe we’re proud to offer products and fabrics that excel in a whole range of activities.

Cross training — doing different types of exercise that work different muscles and energy systems in the body—can improve overall fitness including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and balance. This improvement in overall fitness can translate to better performance on the bike by building a broader foundation of fitness and strength that is useful when digging really deep during long rides, high-paced rides and in competition.

While cycling is a great form of exercise for cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength, focusing only on cycling can be hard on certain muscles and joints, and neglect others. Without conscious training, this can lead to muscle imbalances and increase the risk of injury. 

Cross training with activities that work the upper body or core, like weightlifting or Pilates, can help increase muscular endurance and prevent muscle imbalances. While cross training with low-impact activities like swimming or yoga can help prevent injuries by improving areas of weakness and improving flexibility. What’s more, adding strength training to a cyclist’s program also improves their power output and hill-climbing ability when pushing on the bike.

Focusing on a single sport can become monotonous and chore-like when done intensively over a long period of time. As many athletes know, cross-training is extremely valuable for avoiding mental-burn out and keeping things fresh for the mind. Spending time pursuing other sports often improves motivation and is likely to lead to better results—both personally and in race season.

In Quebec, the winter months hit hard and Mathieu can’t ride for 4-5 months of the year.So, Mathieu diversifies his activities with XC skiing, fat biking, backcountry skiing, running, hiking, snowshoeing and being outdoors as much as possible. He also tries to participate in one or two cross-country or backcountry ski races during the winter season and at least one running race in the fall. He says,”to stay mentally sane, I do see the benefits of cross training and staying away from cycling most of the winter.” 

By engaging in other activities, Math is able to continue to train outdoors and use different muscle groups. Most importantly, it allows him to shift his focus away from cycling for a healthy brain break. Going in without expectations, the races provide Mathieu with a different perspective on competition and help to build his competitive toolbox when it is time to race his bike.

Karsten trail runs regularly throughout the summer to help him improve his VO2 max and threshold heart rate, while also allowing him to work on coordination, dynamic strength, higher impact loading, and to help strengthen bone density. He says that with all these benefits, it's a no-brainer to add trail running into your weekly training plan if you have the time and energy to do so.

Karsten also likes to supplement his cycling with more strength training in the winter months, as well as taking time off the bike to enjoy winter sports like XC skiing and backcountry skiing, which he says helps him keep in shape and build amazing functional strength. He also believes trail running gives him an opportunity to change things up and provide the mind with a break from cycling, noting, “Running also provides a high bang for buck workout when time is a factor… cross training has always allowed me to get more done without mental burnout over one sport.”

Not only can cross-training provide your brain with a well-deserved break to improve motivation and your ability in your primary sport, but it can also improve your overall fitness, reduce the likelihood of injury, and offers a fresh perspective on competition and the sports you love.

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