Lift a weight, run a mile, climb a wall, meditate.
If you’re anything like me, along with cheer and lots of family time, the holidays bring on carbs, calories from too much animal fat, and ungodly amounts of sugar. We will drink, be merry, pass out on the couch and put on a couple of pounds - at least. More importantly, the holidays mark the real transition into winter. It’s a time of relative inactivity and for those in the colder climes, less opportunity for riding a motorcycle. So how do you stay in riding shape?
Let’s face it, riding can be painful: wrist pain, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, ankle pain, butt pain, etc. If you don’t make it to the gym, you don’t know how effective cross training can be in straightening out that crumpled sandwich-wrapper of a body into a nice 8.5 x 11 sheet of white printer paper ready for the next ride.
Learning new exercises and activities can be exhilarating. They will activate new muscle groups, force you to think and live outside your comfort zone, and introduce you to new people and a new ideas.
Here are exercises and activities that will help you be more confident, both on and off your bike.
Head to the gym or just make some room in your garage! While you are there, try these fun and simple exercises:
1. Suspended ring push-ups: Helps strengthen your shoulder, chest and core stabilizer muscles. Great for feeling strong and powerful maneuvering the bike at speed on twisty roads.
2. Decline sit-up with ball toss: A super intense core workout. Helps with maintaining good posture during long rides and preventing back pain.
3. Forward lunge with kettlebells: Strengthens your quads, glutes and core stabilizers. Great for feeling comfortable balancing on your bike while moving or with your feet on the ground and at a standstill.
4. Inverted row with rings (or bar): The opposite of ring push-ups, but same emphasis on stabilizing muscles, building grip-strength and strengthening the back.
While gym exercises can be the easiest to get started on, don't underestimate how valuable these activities can be to the physical and mental demands of motorcycling:
1. Rock climbing: Forces you to think while engaged in strenuous physical activity. It activates the problem solving part of your brain under stress and sharpens your analytical mind. It also delivers a killer upper body and arm workout at the same time.
2. Cycling: Very akin to riding a motorcycle, except you are now the engine as well as the operator. Cycling forces you to use similar road survival techniques to the ones that you use on your motorcycle, all while strengthening your legs and improving your cardiovascular fitness and health.
3. Learn a Martial Art: Pick a martial art that appeals to you philosophically and find a local gym or master that teaches it. Martial arts will not only teach you skills for self-defense, but also improve your reflexes and instincts under duress. Many martial arts styles also practice techniques for falling and tumbling which are useful for if and when you do have a crash.
4. Do Yoga: Learning and practicing yoga is one of the healthiest and most satisfying ways to feel more comfortable on your bike. It will limber you up, strengthen your core muscle groups and challenge you with some of the most intense tie-you-in-knots poses you'll ever do. It also helps you develop strategies for calming your mind; very useful for when that type-A, bluetoothed and clean-shaven real estate agent decides his appointment in Malibu is more important than your safety as he nearly runs you over changing lanes. Just breathe...
5. Meditate and visualize: I like to visualize proper riding techniques in my moments of down-time; my favorite times and spaces are when I'm in the shower and right before I fall asleep in bed. Visualization is a well-known technique for helping improve athletic ability and skill.
6. Ride: This one is self-explanatory.
What are some other complimentary activities or exercises that you'd recommend for motorcyclists?