As a complete newbie to this world of cycling, “small hills” (as my partner would call them!) felt more like “huge mountains”, with the slightest upward gradient completely killing my ‘rhythm’ – bringing out those burning leg pains, complimented by dying-bear type breathing. Eight months into my cycling journey and only now am I just starting to get the hang of it . . .
Rewind eight months though and I was a sorry sight; hill rests were regular – and necessary – with my bike often serving more as something to lean on than something to ride. You’d regularly find me keeled over the handle bars (a more comfortable position than you would think) on the side of the road, asking the tarmac below why-oh-why I had thought I could challenge it! All the while my breathing in general was just all over the place – and loud – I’d huff and puff my way along the roads, trying and miserably failing to keep any kind of control over the intricate task of inhaling and exhaling. I wasn’t much company either as talking whilst cycling was out of the question – that was multi-tasking too far.
“How am I so unfit?!” I would ask myself through every gasp of breath. I have always been an active person – a dancer in a growingly distant past life, and for the last two years a regular gym bunny, joining the ‘strong-not-skinny’ revolution. I guess this is where the problem lies . . . my gym life does not involve cardio, ever. It revolves around weight-training; building power rather than endurance. In cycling it would appear you need both, damn it.
Initially my cycling seemed detrimental to my gym sessions, and vice versa. ‘Leg days’ tired out the thighs as much as then the rides would. The key to doing both was in the planning; knowing when I was riding and planning my gym sessions accordingly, giving my legs rest time between the two. I also upped my plyometric sets, and I’m pleased to say that the battle has of course (finally) paid off; my endurance at the gym has increased massively thanks to my training on the bike, and continuing to build strength in the gym has kept those thighs strong for the climbs. This year I reached a PB on the squat rack of 80kg, and have improved my rep numbers at 50/60kg to x10, and at 40kg and less to x15-20 – whereas before I would peak at x6-8 and that was on the lower weights. And much to my enjoyment I am now constantly achieving PB’s on my rides (could it be the best feeling ever?!) – conquering hills now that eight months ago I quite literally thought I was going to die on!
I absolutely love the sense of achievement and the personal satisfaction that I get from both of these activities, and I have found myself motivated by the progression in one, and by seeing over time how such progression has been aided by the other.
Gym Vs Cycling? I’d say do both!