Cross training.

By choice I’ve tended to use only my mountain bike for training for many years. I had a restaurant business until 2012 and since then I’ve had the ability to ride in daylight hours so there has been no need to supplement mountain biking with other training. Before 2012 I’d often do a midweek run but only in the winter when it was dark by the time I got home. I tried mountain biking in the dark with lights and it can be good fun but in wet conditions you get home with a muddy bike needing cleaning and lubrication when you least feel like undertaking such a task. I did enjoy being out in the hills in the dark. It might not suit everyone but I can cope with being alone and having to rely only on my own resources. My mates were unwilling to join me in such enterprises though I have ridden with others under LED lighting a few years ago. I haven’t been out for a run, as such, for around 8 years so have done no cross training. The nearest I’ve got to anything unlike mountain biking is the occasional road ride which can be oriented more towards spinning and is therefore less muscular.

Having built a pedal powered boat this year I now have an alternative to mountain biking and it is definitely a form of cross training. When I first had it performing well in July I found that I could only turn the pedals 30 times per minute and whilst it was muscular it hardly increased my breathing at all. I could feel the effect on my leg muscles as if I’d being doing weight training, often leading to cramping. I’ve added a chain and sprockets into the drive line and now I can maintain more than 60 rpm with the pedals. It’s more aerobic than it was but still not as much so as cycling so I still think that using the boat is a form of cross training.

Today I sailed to the Ellerbeck Narrowboats boatyard near Adlington. I often see their rental narrowboats on the canal, though not today. You can rent a boat for the day from £110 mid week which I consider a good value day out since they can carry around 10 passengers. Still, who needs to hire when you’ve got your own pedal powered dinghy? It may be a far less sociable experience but I often talk to people on the canal bank, some of whom live on narrow boats whilst others ask me questions about the boat. I kept up a good pace on the pedals, sailing south into the wind, turned at the boatyard and returned with wind assistance. The wind is often unpredictable on this stretch of canal because of trees and the undulating landscape through which the water contours but I’ve been thinking of getting a kayak sail to add interest. You need a following wind to inflate a 110 cm (42″) dome with window to aid your motion. My only concern would be that the sail may steer the boat where I don’t want to go. I was already a few minutes quicker on my return leg without a sail, despite picking up a substantial twig in the rudder at some point.

I kept the work rate up all the way back to my start point and knew I’d had a good workout. I didn’t, however, feel any cramping this time. I’d covered 2.9 miles in 64 minutes, giving an average of 2.72 mph. Strava gave a more exciting average of 3.2 mph over 3.6 miles but it seems to struggle to track your exact course at such low speeds. Sailing may lack the excitement of challenging the limits on a mountain bike trail but it is probably more exciting and fulfilling than road riding. Plus it’s something very different just being out on the water and I have time to dream of boating adventures for next year.


  1. judyrutrider says:

    This reminds me of the difference between mountain biking and mountain biking on an E-bike. My new E-bike requires (or allows) a higher cadence, with maximum power being achieved at 70 rpm. I was nonplussed when I developed back and hip pain just a few months after switching bikes. Do you feel different aches and pains when pedaling your boat; or are you too young to notice such discomforts?


    1. kirkmtb says:

      For reference I’m 60 years old but plenty young enough for bikes and boats! I try to maintain around 90 rpm on the bike but can only manage 60 in the boat. I breath harder on the bike but get cramping all down my legs in the boat, quite easily. A higher cadence with less torque can give the same power but is kinder to the leg muscles. Just drop the bike down a gear or two and spin faster with less effort would be my advice.


      1. judyrutrider says:

        Ah, to be 60 again! Interestingly, the hip and back issues began when I switched from the lower cadence regular mountain bike to the higher cadence E-bike. Of course, it could have something to do with going from riding once a week to riding four times a week. You’re right, I don’t experience muscle cramps now like I did on the regular bike even though I’m climbing much steeper hills. Gotta love that assist!

        Liked by 1 person

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