Cycling is not just about endurance, strength and flexibility are also important fitness components. Unfortunately, detraining affects them too. Let’s take a look at what you should do to avoid losing your strength and flexibility gains.
When do you start losing strength?
Research shows that beginners are safe from strength losses for the first 3 weeks and possibly even longer. But those who regularly lift weights to support their cycling are at risk of rapidly losing new strength gains just after 3 weeks of inactivity.
Do one strength session per week
Studies show that beginners can maintain their strength for up to 12 weeks with just one strength training session per week. Experienced lifters should include eccentric training during the time of reduced training if they want to limit strength losses. Eccentric training happens when you lengthen a muscle under load. An example would be doing just the descending part of a weighted squat or a lunge.
Eccentric training is also great for injury prevention, so it’s ideal for experienced lifters who know how to do it right. If your training break is caused by an injury in one leg, for example, then it’s also a good idea to continue strength training the healthy one. Research shows that the body increases neural adaptations in both legs even if you only train one side.
Regularly work on your flexibility
Research shows that just 4 weeks of inactivity significantly lowers the flexibility of hip, trunk, shoulder, and spine by up to 30% in both males and females. Every cyclist should do some form of regular stretching. Maybe it’s a short stretch after every ride to loosen up the main muscle groups involved in pedalling, or doing yoga as cross-training. Research shows that this becomes even more important when you take a break from training.
Muscle memory is a real thing
The good thing is that once you train enough to create more muscle fibres, your body remembers it. When you stop doing physical exercise for some period of time, your muscles might atrophy, but myonuclei, the core of the muscle fibre, aren’t lost. Studies show that they remain in the muscle for 15 years and possibly even longer. This “muscle memory” is what allows you to get back in shape quickly after an injury or an extended layoff.
We will take a closer look at how to best restart your training in the last article of this series. So, if you happen to experience some detraining, you can quickly restore your muscles and your endurance to their former glory!