Cycling provides good, not perfect, cross-training for ski season |

Cycling provides good, not perfect, cross-training for ski season

Teresa Ristow
Bryan DeLong rides his mountain bike along the new Steamboat Springs West Connector Trail in July with the Steamboat Ski Area as a backdrop. Experts say that biking is an effective cross-training for skiing when combined with other activities.
John F. Russell

— There’s no doubt that the popularity of cycling and mountain biking is on the rise in Steamboat Springs — just look around at the flurry of cyclists in town this week to take part or spectate the start of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge.

But in a town known for its powder skiing and winter Olympians, all this pedaling around begs the question — is cycling good cross-training for ski season?

“There’s a lot of discussion out there on whether cycling and cross country skiing are transferrable,” said Dave Jarrett, the U.S. Ski Team’s Nordic combined coach. “As a combined team, we’ve done a lot of cycling and found there’s a lot of correlation.”

Jarrett said the team balances a large amount of roller skiing with running and cycling. He said cycling is effective because it provides a long, low-intensity workout for athletes exercising two or three times per day. Running, by comparison, puts more pressure on joints and requires more recovery time.

“[Cycling] provides a way for us to get a significantly high number of training hours without doing a lot of damage to joints,” said Jarrett, a Steamboat Springs native now living in Utah. “The fatigue on the peripheral system is much higher running than it is cycling. The time it takes to recover from a three-hour run is a lot higher than the time it takes to cover from a three-hour ride.”

While he supports cycling as a form of cross-training for skiing, Jarrett said the best cross-training is a mixture of activities.

“What we found is that if you do only one thing it’s probably not going to be good,” Jarrett said. “The more stuff we can do and the better we can be at it, the better our Nordic combined skiers will be.”

While she also supports cycling as a portion of cross-training, Old Town Hot Springs fitness director Marietta Roberts agreed that cycling alone isn’t enough.

“It really does help with endurance, but you still need to do some weight training,” Roberts said.

Quadriceps are engaged while skiing, and weight training in addition to cycling can help skiers beat the burning sensation in their legs.

“Your quads get a pounding when you’re skiing, and so you need to do some weight training to prepare for this,” Roberts said. “You need to have some weight training and some muscle building.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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