Five tips for cross training

by Brian Walton

When I was tasked with writing about cross training, my first thought was similar to the NFL studio guys… “C’mon Man!!" PLEASE give me another topic!! CROSS TRAINING. When you google the term, you get 37 million pages on the topic! It has been written about since Tudor Bumpa was in diapers! The last thing I want to do is talk down to my audience. Cyclists, especially my masters, are smart, a well-read crew. I want to deliver an article that is applicable, relevant and actionable to all USA Cycling members. Over the past month,  I have been thinking about this topic while out riding (which is when I tend to do my best thinking). It’s the day after Thanksgiving and then the light bulb went off. Brian, it’s simple. Don’t over think it…
Why CROSS TRAIN? Well it’s simple: to develop muscles that get neglected while on the bike, add variety to your training program, complement the bike fitness by fine tuning a personal strength or addressing a weakness and, of course, have fun. Don’t think there is any science or specificity in my example? Think a little harder about what it takes to get the hole shot for that last turn in a criterium, positioning for the first section of cobbles in the Tour of Flanders, keeping it safe on a Gran Fondo, for the climber positioning themselves at the base of a climb at the lead of the bunch to make the top of the podium?

5 tips for Cross Training

  1. TRICK YOUR MIND AND BODY. Cross training can be a great way to maintain your fitness and current activity level without realizing you are working out. Try running, cross-country skiing, in-line skating, rowing, swimming, weight lifting or flag football.
  1. BE REALISTIC.  Cross train if it is motivating for you and you have the time. If you really just need a break, do just that. 
  1. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Are you feeling a little stale? Then, by all means, hang your bike up for a while or dust it off on the weekends only and give cross training a go.
  1. MOVE WISELY. Remember, your cycling fitness will cross right over (you are an aerobic engine), so just because you can run 5 miles the first time out, doesn’t mean you should. It takes time to sharpen those primary running muscles. Likewise, playing soccer non-stop will wreak havoc on your muscles from all the short bursts of speed. Ease into it.
  1. AND ABOVE ALL, KISS…! Can you easily get going with the cross training activity? Select an activity that won’t take a lot of startup. No barriers (pun intended) Played tennis in high school? Get out the racquet and back on the court for a few weeks. Have a gym membership? Give a few classes a try – Pilates, kickboxing, yoga.
MASTER TIP: The offseason is a perfect time to get caught up on home matters. My wife, Dana, chooses fall cleaning over spring cleaning. Come spring she is ready to get outside on the bike. While focusing on the home chores, she maintains her fitness with one to two brief HIT sessions (jump rope intervals are one of her favorites) and at least one two-hour or longer endurance ride per week.
Essentially, your cross training purpose is to add motivation for the upcoming season or prevent mid-season burn out. Cyclists log many hours on the bike and with a racing season that typically starts in March and doesn’t end until September, it can be a struggle to stay focused and goal driven for seven months. Adding balance and variety now will pay off in the long run. And isn’t that why we do it? The long run?

About the Author
Brian Walton was a professional cyclist for 12 years and raced for 7-11, Motorola and Saturn. He competed in three Olympics on both the road and track and in 1996 he won a silver medal in the points race. One of Brian’s best accomplishments was winning the Pays Basque Time Trial over Miguel Indurain…the last time Indurain lost a TT for over 5 years. After retiring from professional cycling, at the end of the 2000 season, he began coaching and was the Director of Team Snow Valley; an amateur cycling team. In 2003, he guided Snow Valley, to a National Championship and Top 10 National ranking against all the professional teams. Brian won the USA Cycling Development Coach of the Year. From 2004 until 2012, Brian worked at Cadence Cycling and Multisport where he created and developed the Performance & Training side of the business. In 2012, Brian founded Walton Endurance, a coaching and training center geared towards cyclists of all abilities from Pro Tour riders to enthusiasts.  For more information please visit or inquiries at