The importance (and danger) of cross training

It’s been said that the better you get at bike riding, the worse you get at everything else. If your legs are used to spinning light circles, and you suddenly try a more impactful sport, you might be asking for trouble. A cautionary tale:

Hey Lee,

Lying on the couch after having surgury on a ruptured achilles tendon yesterday and thought I should comment on the importance of cross training and stretching for us daily bikers in the hopes I can spare one of us this injury as it appears I’ll be out of full speed action for a minimum of 6 mons.

I decided to start playing basketball this off season to keep in shape. In hindsight not a great idea as all I do is ride my mountain bike and this is not good training for basketball. My body was not prepared for the impact so here I am.

Point is if your thinking of participating in another sport that has more impact be sure to ease into it or maybe we should all include a short jog in our weekly routine and of course stretch out those calf muscles especially if your hitting middle age!

Hope this helps someone and if anyone has recovered from this injury I’d love to here how you did it!

Love the site Lee.


Hey Idris,

I’m sorry you got hurt, but I’m glad you raised this point.

I’ll never forget one of Tyler Hamilton’s old columns in Velonews: He and some cycling buddies were struggling to build a rock wall in his yard. He thought it was funny: “The better you get at pedaling a bike, the worse you get at everything else.”


Downhill/DJ/pump-style riding is a lot more dynamic than straight XC, but let’s face it — your body will adapt to exactly what you demand. As a cyclist you’re in an awkward position: You have the fitness to push hard and long, but you have the cycling-specific frailty to really get hurt. Where the average person would get tired and stop, we cyclists keep going until we REALLY hurt ourselves.

Basketball looks like a ton of fun, but it can be brutal. I’ve been shooting my kid’s high school basketball games, and — wow — some of those moves would rip my legs off! I would have to work up that kind of violence.

Trevor pulls Gs like an F1 car. Look at the torque on his right shoe.

There’s more to life than pedaling
For lots of reasons, it behooves us all to:

– Train ourselves in a well rounded way. Pedaling, running, jumping, lifting, pulling, twisting, stretching, etc. There are a million ways to do this. Pick one you like.

– Be consistent and gradual — especially if you’re getting old.

Lee Likes Running (sort of)
For the longest time, I really struggled with running. Evan as a serious triathlete in college, I topped out at 8-minute miles, and every step tore me to pieces. A couple years ago I learned some important biomechanical stuff in yoga class, and I studied running form with the goal of being able to run if and when I need to.

I try to run, hike or carry heavy things 1-3x per week. I’m not fast on my feet, but I’m finally comfortable. And I’ve accomplished this:

– I feel more rounded and stable.

– I can run as part of daily life. Example: Wife’s in Blockbuster; I run to order dinner. Yesterday I ran from the dentist to the optometrist and back. That would have been a too-short bike ride, but it was a perfect 37-minute jog.

– I can participate with non-cyclists. When my kid Ian was on Xmas break, we did sprints together. Amazingly, we were about even. (But I was crippled afterward, and he was fine.)

– My Super D starts are way better. I’ve gone from dead last to top 3.

To sum it up
Let’s train our bodies to handle whatever comes up — and let’s have fun — but let’s be careful about it, OK?

Especially you old farts!

— Lee (Racing age – 39)

Idris: Take it easy, and heal fast.

8 replies
  1. Idris says:


    Thanks for the well wishes and expanding on the concept. I’m 39 as well so I guess this is my initiation to middle age – lesson learned!

    As a late convert to mountain biking I’m looking to find my “optimal efficient flow state” by the time I reach the 50+ class so I’ve got another ten years to recover, train and practice skills!

    Down But Not Out,

  2. Justin Brown says:

    Having played basketball through HS and College, I can say that it is a tough sport on your body. I am 40 now and my ankles (especially my left) are GARBAGE. I have had more serious injuries on the B-ball court than I have on my bike (I guess I’m just not going fast enough). In any event, I have learned (the hard way) that stretching before AND after is probably the best thing you can do for your body. At this point it’s all about the recovery. I’m sorry to hear about your injury, I know what it’s like. Get well soon.

  3. esteban says:

    damn it….and i just got my new b-ball shoes to start playing again…oh well i shall stretch. heal fast!

  4. dylan says:

    Yeah I fell the pain. I broke my ankle a year and a half ago cross training with another ball sport, paintball. Snapped the bottom of my fibula off and had it reattached with a small plate and seven screws. Now I am on the couch again because I had the plate and seven screws removed. So training up and stay on your bike where it is safe.

  5. Mark says:

    A lot of the “getting torn-up” that’s associated with running has to do with the shoes you’re wearing. I discovered after going to a really good local running shoe store that my feet pronate (sort of roll sideways) when I run. I got a pair of “motion control” (a.k.a. old-man looking) shoes and every bit of knee and ankle pain I had been experiencing after my runs went away in like 3 days. Totally killer. I rotate running on the treadmill and biking on the fluid trainer to keep from going batty in the garage.

  6. dougrender says:

    I was a long time competitive distance runner and later a serious road rider. More recently an ex MTB’er and most recently a motobiker. I’ve always believed in cross training.

    If you want a great cross training routine that will not lead to overuse injuries, look into crossfit. If you are in Boulder,, although there are gyms all across the country. Always something new, always something challenging. Just don’t drink too much of the koolaid.

    age 38

  7. gembong says:

    Man, that’s explains a lot! I’m 34 and maybe that’s why my left arm muscle sore after pulling the bike is not healing fast enough. Warning for all of us whose over 30s.
    Thanks, Lee and get well soon, Idris
    Warm regards,.
    Gembong from Malang, Indonesia.

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