Four hacks to get fitter, faster
Take a Stand
Cyclists typically try to build endurance by practicing long, seated climbs. But standing to pedal can lead to a dramatic spike in performance.
Tweak It: Find a straight stretch of road with a moderate incline—about a 4 to 6 percent grade. Start in a comfortable cadence, then click into a harder gear. Without changing your speed or cadence, stand and pedal for 30 seconds, then sit and recover with an easy spin for 30 seconds. Repeat five times.
Plummeting temps leave you with two choices: brave the elements or retreat to an indoor trainer. But exposure to freezing weather can be counterproductive, and the monotony of riding a trainer indoors can be unbearable.
Tweak It: Set up your trainer, then head outside for an hour or two at a mellow pace, concentrating on enjoying the ride. Then come inside and hop onto the trainer for a short, focused workout. Time will fly, you'll limit your exposure to the cold, and you'll make better fitness gains.
Change the Spin
Many cyclists strive to maintain a fast, steady cadence, but you'll be able to ride longer and stronger by turning the cranks at different speeds.
Tweak It: To improve your strength while pedaling slower, come to a rolling stop on a flat road or gradual climb, then jump at near maximum effort in a big gear for 10 to 15 seconds at 70rpm or less. Pedal normally for five minutes. Repeat three to five times. To boost your performance at faster cadences, begin spinning at 90 to 100 rpm on a flat road, then accelerate with a burst at max effort for 10 to 15 seconds, spinning as fast as you can. Pedal normally for five minutes. Repeat three to five times.
Work Your Flip Side
When you hunch over your handlebar, you don't engage the back of your body, and over time your butt, back, and hamstring muscles can weaken. Yet when most of us work our core, we often focus only on our abs.
Tweak It: Build stronger glute, hamstring, and back muscles with "the woodpecker," an exercise devised by Eric Goodman, a chiropractor and the author of The Foundation. Take a giant step forward with your right leg so that you're in a split stance. With your knees slightly bent, lift your left heel off the floor and reach your arms out in front of you. Press your butt back until you feel a stretch in your right hamstring. Reach your arms farther forward and slowly stretch them overhead. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Do it daily.