When bicycle racers speak about “cross-training,” it’s kind of like cross dressing: Putting on the clothes, the mien, and the ethos of another sport during the off season to help prepare you for the Real Deal.
Bicyclists up here in the Great Frozen North often cross-train by Nordic skiing, as some of the motions of the two endurance sports are similar, or at least close enough to provide training benefits.
Rarely do we consider lacrosse, rugby, or ice hockey. Or surfing.
A buddy of mine is a surfer. A real surfer. As in, he lived for several years in his Subaru station wagon parked at Malibu Beach. When the surf was up, he surfed. Other times, he did the rest of the things the rest of us do and call “life.”
When I mentioned bicycle racing to him, he screwed up his face and practically shuddered. “Why do you cyclists like to suffer so much?” he asked.
Good question. And one for which I didn’t have a good answer.
Truth is, I don’t think we cyclist really like to suffer, per se. But it is how you get better.
Surfers also suffer for their sport. Have you ever tried paddling a longboard into a set of waves while laying prone? It’s hard work, it’s exhausting, and after a morning of surfing, you feel it. But come on. The palm trees, the sun, the beaches … I guess it’s all just “suffering” by a different name.
So I figured this winter, I’d try cross training for bike racing by surfing.
Unfortunately, here at my HQ in Minnesota there are no oceans (unless I somehow overlooked one). So when a break in the action permitted (in between work and polar vortexes), my family and I made a beeline for Mexico.
We surfed the left-breaking shoulder of the pointbreak at La Saladita and the beach break at a nearly deserted Playa Linda, both just north of the gorgeous small city of Zihautanejo. There were indeed palm trees, sun, and beaches. And there were especially wondrous sets of waves, thanks to our catching the tail end of the North Swell that was making big surf up in California that week.
Now, through my new regimen of surfing cross-training, I wasn’t expecting huge cardio and metabolic improvements — although my shoulders and core could certainly feel all that paddling, especially considering the size of some of the North Swell waves. Maybe I built some explosive power from jumping up on the board to my feet as I caught those breaks. And the surfboard rash on my knees and chest also may prepare me for the inevitable road rash this coming season, although I’m skeptical you can ever really prepare for that.
So all in all, I sadly have to report that surfing doesn’t quite cut it as cross-training for bike racing.
But on the other hand … upon reflection, with all that saltwater, vitamin D, and the glorious laid-back vibe of surfing, I felt great. Refreshed. Reinvigorated. Yes, dare I say it, stoked.
Surfing proved to have phenomenal psychological and even philosophical cross-training benefits — benefits that I could foresee translating into all sorts of other Good Things on the bike.
In fact, maybe I’ll become a surfer, and cross-train by racing bicycles.
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